Pilaf, pilau or ‘seasoned rice’

Posted by Ed Fri, 29 Apr 2011 09:56:00 GMT

A pilaf or pilau (or ‘seasoned rice’ as my Mum calls it) is made by first coating rice with oil or fat before cooking it with seasonings and / or added ingredients.

As an example, here's a recipe for a ‘seasoned rice’ with prawns, fish and peas (serves 4 people as a main course).


  • 2 mugs of white basmati or long grain rice
  • 2 large onions, in fine dice
  • vegetable, fish or chicken stock (or stock cube)
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 9 fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp hot sauce, e.g. Encona
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ glass white wine or vermouth
  • ½ glass olive oil
  • 4 mugs of water (i.e. twice the quantity of rice)
  • 200g white fish, defrosted, in large dice
  • 150g prawns, defrosted
  • 100g frozen peas


  • sweat the diced onion in the olive oil for 10 mins until soft
  • add the rice and ensure well coated with oil
  • add the seasonings (paprika, fennel, hot sauce, bay leaf)
  • add the stock and wine and water (dissolving the stock cube if using one)
  • bring to the boil, then cover with a tight-fitting lid and turn down to minimum
  • wait 20 mins (25 mins if using long-grain rice) without removing the lid
  • add the fish, prawns and peas and add salt to taste. Replace lid.
  • wait 5 mins
  • test that fish is cooked, then serve

Mind you crisp up the dead baby's ears, lest you be scolded

Posted by Ed Sun, 19 Dec 2010 12:45:00 GMT

When an old friend sent a cry for help in dealing with the unexpected gift of a suckling pig, which he described unpoetically as "a dead baby in a cardboard box", the right thing to do was clear. I reached for Jane Grigson's Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery.

To achieve "beautiful crackling" on this "festival dish", Jane Grigson recommends basting with olive oil until the skin becomes croquante. In brief, her method calls for a lightweight stuffing of mirepoix and breadcrumbs. I would go heavy on the fennel seeds for a porchetta style. Regarding the presentation of the cochon de lait to table she notes wryly that:

Many cookery-book writers are anxious that the sucking pig be presented on the table with an American mortician's skill. 'Truss the legs and tail in a lifelike position, a small red apple in mouth and cranberries in the eye sockets. Try to preserve as nearly as possible the animal's original shape and form'.

Writing from personal experience, no doubt, Grigson warns:

But do not overemphasise these effects: few people have the robust constitutions required to look a small creature in its cranberry eye.

Next off the bookshelf was Good Things in England by Florence White, descriptively subtitled:

A Practical Cookery Book for Everyday Use
Containing Traditional and
Regional Recipes suited to
Modern Tastes contributed by
English Men and Women between
1399 and 1932...

William Kitchiner (1775-1827), the contributor of this recipe:

has different concerns where it comes to bringing the roast to the table:

Lay...the ears, one at each end, which you must take good care to make nice and crisp, or you will be scolded, as the good man was, who bought his wife a pig with only one ear.

So, apart from finding an oven large enough to accomodate your baby and finding some fellow diners with strong constitutions, the key -- as ever with pork roasts -- is attention to the crackling.

Bagsie an ear.

Good for the heart

Posted by Ed Tue, 29 Dec 2009 11:54:00 GMT

Kidney bean casserole


A thick creamy bean stew. Eat with rice and, for example, avocado salad.


  • 500g dried kidney (red) beans
  • 2 large onions
  • head of garlic
  • chillies or harissa to taste
  • spices (e.g. cumin, coriander seeds etc)
  • 50 - 100g cured pork product e.g. bacon, pancetta or chorizo etc if you like to eat pork
  • green herbs (e.g parsley, thyme, bay leaf or bouquet garni)


  • a pressure cooker, or else a large (at least 4 litre) heavy pan with a lid.


  • soak the beans overnight in cold water. (If you forget this, you can use the 'quick method' which is more or less equivalent: bring the beans to the boil in plenty of water and boil for 2 mins. Turn off the heat and leave covered for 60 mins.)

  • chop the onions finely and saute gently in plenty of (ideally olive) oil for approx 30 mins until golden

  • add the garlic, chillies and spices to the onions for the final two minutes

  • chop the bacon, chorizo and add to the onion / garlic / herb mixture.

  • meanwhile, change the water and bring the beans to the boil. In a big pan (approx 4 litres) the water should come up to the 3/4 level. Boil for 10 mins (This is important if you are using a slow cooker which will be cooking at less than 100°C. See Wikipedia if more information.).

  • add the mixture to the beans once they have been boiling for 2 mins.

  • cook in the pressure cooker for 2.5 hours or in a conventional pan for 6-8 hours or until the beans are soft and the creamy. If you don't have a pressure cooker and your pan is oven safe you can bring the beans to a boil on the hob and then cook overnight in the oven on a very low heat (e.g 80°C)

  • once the beans are done, if you find that the liquid is rather watery rather than thick and creamy, decant a good portion of the liquid to a heavy wide pan and reduce over a high flame. Add the reduced liquid back to the beans when nice and thick.

  • now add salt to taste. NB: it's important not to add salt (or acidic ingredients such as tomatoes) until after the beans are cooked. Otherwise the beans and especially their skins stay tough.


You can use this technique with any other variety of beans which you have or fancy, e.g. black beans, butter beans, flagelot. Adjust the herbs, spices, pork product as you like. Some suggestions:

  • whole cumin seeds or a mixture of ground cumin and coriander seeds
  • harissa
  • raw cashews
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves if you find you don't have any fresh green herbs
  • fresh thyme (loads)
  • fresh coriander (be sparing)
  • baby dried figs (with butterbeans)
  • smoked paprika (with butterbeans or chickpeas)
  • ends of proscuttio or ham which you pick up cheap from the deli