Friday, March 19, 2010

its a funny thing about dreams..
our species never stops having them.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Here is the perfect dish for celebrating, from the "back of beyond" in Afghanistan. The recipe, and others, can be found at The comments below are Helen's, and are excerpted from her excellent cookbook.

Zamarud chalau - Emerald (spinach) rice

This recipe differs from Sabzi chalau in that the rice is actually cooked in the spinach water. This gives the rice a green colour and its name, zamarud, meaning emerald. This was one of my favourites when I lived in Afghanistan and still is. I like to serve it with meatballs and perhaps a salad.


Serves 4

* 1 lb (450 g) long grain white rice, preferably basmati
* 2 lb (900 g) spinach
* ¼ pint (150 ml) water, plus 2½ pints (1.5 litres)
* 8 oz (225 g) leeks (or gandana*)
* 1 tbs dried dill weed or 2 tbs fresh coriander, washed and finely chopped
* ½ tbs fenugreek (optional)
* 5 f1 oz (150 ml) vegetable oil
* 2 tsp cumin, whole or ground
* salt and black pepper


Rinse the rice several times in cold water until it remains clear. Add fresh water and leave the rice to soak for at least half an hour.

Chop the spinach into small pieces and then wash thoroughly. Drain well. Put the spinach into a large pan and add ¼ pint water (150 ml). Add 2 f1 oz (50 ml) of the oil. Put on a medium to high heat and boil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the spinach reduces and the water becomes green. Drain off the water and oil from the spinach into a bowl or measuring jug, reserving about 3 fl oz (75 ml) of liquid and 2 fl oz (50 ml) of oil for cooking the rice and any remaining liquid for cooking the spinach.

Chop up the leeks into small pieces and wash thoroughly. Heat the remaining 2 fl oz (50 ml) of oil in a pan and add the leeks, which should be well drained. Fry over a medium heat until soft but not brown. Add the leeks to the spinach, then add the dill or coriander, fenugreek (if used) and salt and pepper. Cook on a low heat, adding any remaining spinach water (except the 4 f1 oz (110 ml) reserved for cooking the rice), until all the water has evaporated and the spinach is soft.

Remove some of the spinach (about 2-4 tablespoons) and chop up very finely. Reserve.

Bring to the boil 2½ pints (1.5 litres) of water. Drain the rice and add to the boiling water. Parboil for 2-3 minutes, then drain the rice in a colander or large sieve. Put the rice in a casserole which has a tightly fitting lid. Now add the reserved cooked spinach, cumin, salt and pepper to the reserved 3 f1 oz (75 ml) of spinach water and 2 f1 oz (50 ml) of oil and stir gently into the rice. Cover with the lid and put in a preheated oven at 150°C (300°F, mark 2) for 30-45 minutes. Alternatively, cook over a low heat for the same time.

- a special kind of green found mostly in Afghanistan. Many Afghans overseas grow it in their gardens.