Fried tofu with Japanese sticky rice and a “gari” cucumber salad

A perfectly well balanced and light meal. And the colours are just wonderful! It was our dinner tonight.

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For the Tofu
1- Let the Tofu drain for at least 30 minutes. I used silky firm Tofu.
2- Slice in half than cut in thick strips.
3- Lightly coat with crushed sesame seeds (or whole sesame seeds if you prefer), and fry in olive or sesame oil. Turn them over only once so that they absorb the least amount of oil.
4- Take out of the pan and pat the excess oil with a cotton clothe.

For one cup of Japanese sushi rice
1- Wash the rice thoroughly, four or five times. The water should not be completely clear.
2- Let it drain for 30 minutes.
3- Place two cups of water in a pan and add the rice. Mix lightly. Cover and bring the water to a boil.
4- Once it is boiling, let it simmer for 15 minutes. Do not uncover.
5- After 15 minutes, turn off the fire and let it stand covered for another ten minutes.
6- Take out the rice from the pan into a large bowl.

For the cucumbers
Just mix: cucumbers cut in strips, Japanese pickled ginger (Gari – ガリ), some sesame seeds and Soya sauce.

To serve: Place the rice in a deep plate, top with the Tofu and the cucumbers. Enjoy! 

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Stir fried rice with zucchini

I love making stir fried rice and it is a wonderful way to cook left over rice. This one is with zucchini and other treasures.

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For one cup of cooked rice (I used basmati and you can use jasmine rice if you prefer):
1- In a pan, place some sesame oil and add half a red onion sliced, three cloves of garlic crushed and about three cm of fresh ginger root cut in think slices.
2- When the onions start to wilt, add a large zucchini cut in small sticks (slice then cut each slice in three). Let it fry gently until some zucchini pieces acquire a golden colour. It should take about 15 minutes.
3- Add one cup of cooked rice, some raisins (I also added some cranberries for their colour), a few leaves of fresh basil and a tablespoon of Soya sauce. Mix well and cook until the rice is warm.
4- Add two eggs directly onto the rice mixture and quickly mix as the eggs cook. Once you see strips of cooked egg, it is ready.

Serve it with a hot sauce on the side or diced hot chili peppers.

Tunisian inspired soup with pasta and chickpeas

This is just the perfect hearty soup for a cold January night.

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For four servings (generous of course!)
1- In a deep pan, fry half a red onion cut in small cubes in a some olive oil.
2- When the onions get to be translucent, add a little bit of fresh ginger root cut in small pieces along with the pulp of three tomatoes (grate them and discard the skin), a teaspoon of black pepper grinded, one and half teaspoon of cumin, a third of a stick of cinnamon, one tablespoon of Saffron liquid, some salt and a handful of cilantro chopped.
3- Mix well and once it starts to boil add enough water (or vegetable broth) to accommodate the pasta.
4- When that mixture is boiling, add 250 gr (half a box) of pasta. I used Farfalle, and any short pasta should do. Return to a boil and let the pasta cook at ease. If you need to add water, do so.
5- Once the pasta is cooked, take out the cinnamon piece and discard it. Add 200 gr (about a cup) of cooked chickpeas along with the juice of one lime. Let it boil for about five minutes.

Serve very warm. I added some Chile Chipotle on my serving and it was delicious!

Yellow Mung Dahl

A nice change from the usual lentils – Yellow Mung Dahl is a split lentil without its skin. It is easy to cook and filled with vitamins. There are many recipes available and here I made one with mustard seeds and Madras curry. I served it with white Basmati rice and Raita (plain yoghurt with cucumbers, cumin and fresh mint).

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For one cup of Dahl:
1- Clean then wash the lentils thoroughly until the water comes out clear. Let it stand in water for a few hours.

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2- In a large pan place some olive oil and add: one and half teaspoon of mustard seeds crushed, one and half teaspoon of Madras curry, a teaspoon of crushed black pepper, some fresh ginger root crushed according to your taste, and half a stick of cinnamon.
3- When the aroma of the spices comes out, add the Dahl with the water, and more water until covering it. Mix in one tablespoon of brown sugar and some salt.
4- Let it come to a boil and bring to a simmer. Cook 30 to 40 minutes until it is soft. Add water during the cooking if you see it is drying.

Take out the cinnamon stick and sprinkle with fresh mint and fresh coriander when serving. 

Preparing barberries for rice topping

Barberries traditionally accompany rice in Iran and in other parts of the Middle East and Central Asia. They are a great source of vitamin C, and, best yet, of colour!

They are called zereshk (زرشک) in Farsi, and simply barberries (pron. berberis – الباربِريْس) in Arabic.

Barberries are also filled with pectin and can be used as a natural additive when making marmalade.

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For a small handful of barberries
1- Clean and wash them with running water (use a sieve it makes it easier), then let them soak for about five minutes in water at room temperature.
2- In a small pan, place a little bit of butter add the barberries and half a teaspoon of brown sugar. Let it simmer mixing gently and you will see the barberries puff up!

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3- Add one tablespoon of saffron liquid (recipe here) and leave on low fire until the barberries have absorbed all the liquid. It should take two to three minutes.

To serve, just sprinkle on rice!

Rice pudding with cardamon and rosewater

A wonderful desert that is easy to make and just perfect if you have some leftover rice. The taste is a delight, like walking in a scented garden.

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I used cooked rice with raisins. The raisins can be added during the preparation if you prefer, and dates as well.

For one cup of prepared rice with raisins:
1- Place the rice in a large pot and cover with milk. (I only use whole milk) Bring to the point of boiling, then lower the flame.
[At this point you can add some raisins and/or dates cut in small pieces.]
2- Add a pinch of salt, the seeds of seven cardamon pods and half a cup of brown sugar, or less if you prefer (you can always add some later). You can replace the brown sugar with honey as well (maple syrup might change the taste too much). Use less honey as it has a “sweeter” taste than brown sugar.
3- Mix from time to time while it cooks. Let it cook for about 20 minutes.
4- Add one tablespoon of rosewater at the very end and mix.

Place in the fridge. It should be eaten cold.

Rice and lentils with dates and raisins

Rice with lentils is one of those dishes that in any culture, brings the memory of home whether you call it Addas polo in Farsi or Arroz con lentejas in Spanish. Here is a most delicious Iranian version with a topping of onion, dates and raisins. The sweet and sour combination is a delight.

The original recipe as seen in this book, calls for cooking the lentils and the rice together, and for adding walnuts. Here I have not used walnuts thinking that it would make the dish too heavy, and I cooked the rice and lentils separately. I also changed a few spices.

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For the lentils
1- Wash one and half cup of brown lentils and let them soak in water. Since San Miguel is almost 2’000 meters in altitude and it takes longer for anything to cook, I let them soak all night.
2- In a large pot, place some olive oil, one teaspoon of cumin, one teaspoon of cilantro seeds crushed, a little bit of cinnamon grated, one teaspoon of turmeric, one teaspoon of black pepper crushed and some fresh ginger root smashed or grated. When the spices start giving their aroma, add the lentils with the water and add more water to make sure all the lentils are covered.
3- Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook until the lentils are done. About 25 minutes.

For the date and raisin topping
1- Slice half a red onion in very thin slices. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with sea salt and a little bit of flour.
2- In a small pan, place a little bit of oil and fry the onion slices until they take a gold color. Add a handful of golden raisins and a handful of dates previously cut in small chunks.
3- Mix well and allow the mix to cook on very low fire (so it does not burn) for about 10 minutes.

For the rice
1- Cook one and half cups of Basmati rice as you would normally do.
2- When the cooking is done, take half a cup of the cooked rice and mix it with three tablespoons of Saffron liquid (recipe here). Return the now yellow rice to the white rice and mix.

To serve: place the rice is a bowl; add the lentils then some of the date and raisin topping. Place a bowl with yoghurt, cumin, fresh mint and cucumbers on the side.

Orange dal Afghan style

Delicious orange dal (lentils) with wonderful spices and a touch of honey.

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For one generous cup of dal:
1- Wash the dal several times until the water is clear.
2- In a large pot, place some olive oil then add three cloves of garlic smashed in a mortar, about five centimetres of fresh ginger root also smashed in a mortar, one teaspoon of cloves, half a cinnamon stick, one teaspoon of turmeric, one and half teaspoon of cumin, the seeds of seven cardamon pods, and finally some salt to taste. Mix well.
3- When the spices start to give their aroma, add the lentils and mix well.
4- Then add four to five medium tomatoes cut in large chunks. If you prefer, you can just add the pulp without the skin.
5- Add one generous tablespoon of honey and mix.
6- Add just enough water to cover the lentils and let it cook on a gentle fire for 30 to 40  minutes. Check from time to time and add water if you see it is drying up.

Serving suggestions: I served it with raita (plain yoghurt with salt, cumin, cucumber and fresh mint) and white Basmati rice cooked with raisins. Place some hot chili peppers on the side if you like them. 

Basmati rice with spices and dried fruits

A tasty and colourful way to prepare Basmati rice.

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For one cup of Basmati rice
Make sure you wash the rice thoroughly so that it has little starch and let it stand in water for at least 30 minutes before cooking it.
1- In a pan, place a little bit of butter and cook first the spices: some garlic, some fresh ginger root crushed, one teaspoon of cumin, the grains of seven pods of cardamom, half a teaspoon of turmeric, salt and freshly crushed black pepper to taste.
2- When the aroma of the spices is released, add one quarter of a large red onion diced. Cook until the onion pieces have wilted.
3- Add the cup of Basmati rice and mix. Add two cups of water and half a cup of raisins (preferably Sultana and not artificially sweetened). You can also add dates or cranberries or almonds (slightly fried).
4- Cook for 25 minutes on low fire (five minutes more in altitude).
When it is ready, fluff with a fork and wait a few minutes before serving.

Mango Dahl

A wonderful South Indian recipe. I am reading a book that takes place in India, in Andhra Pradesh to be precise, and they keep talking about this dish. So I searched the recipe on the internet, and tweaked it a little. It is delicious!

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For one and half cup of orange split Dahl (lentils)
1- Wash the Dahl really well until the water is clear. No need to soak it.
2- In a large pan, place some olive oil and add half a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of turmeric, one and half teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of coriander seeds (crushed), half a teaspoon of black and red pepper seeds (crushed), about four cloves of garlic (crushed) and about 5 cm of fresh ginger root (grated). Mix and let it cook until the aroma of the spices is released.
3- Add the Dahl and cover with water. Let it cook at least 15 minutes ,mixing it lightly from time to time. Do not cover.
4- Add three mangos (not fibrous) cut in large chunks. They will disintegrate a bit as they cook. Mix gently and let it cook until the Dahl is done. About 10 minutes.
5- Place in a large dish and sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro.

I served it with Basmati rice with raisins and some Raita (Yoghurt with cucumber and cumin), even if the latter two are more typical from Northern India.