Easy Peasy Rice Pilaf

Rice is a super staple in our household. On any given day, my cupboard is stocked with at least five different types of rice grain. My favourite way of eating it is plain, steamed and accompanied by a savoury dish smothered with sauce. I do admit that sometimes plain steamed rice becomes plain ol’ rice.

Last night, I was tasked by my husband to cook rice to accompany the juicy slices of roast lamb left over from our recent dinner at his parents. My mom-in-law invites us over once a week for dinner mainly as a ruse to get us to bring her grand kids over. Whatever the reason, I am grateful for the break (even wannabe chefs need a break from the kitchen). Anyway, I was going to make plain ol’ rice but then I realized that only Rice Pilaf can do justice to the delicious lamb she made. A proper Rice Pilaf can take up to one hour to make but I didn’t have it in me to make that kind of investment on rice. I decided to take a shortcut – a very short shortcut.

I used my rice cooker. I know some of you are probably gasping right now at the thought of using a rice cooker to make Pilaf but if you want something fast and super easy then this here is a delicious substitute.

If you want an honest to goodness version of a Rice Pilaf, then check out Alton Brown’s recipe here. I love Alton Brown’s recipe because, like all of his recipes, it is easy to follow and tastes superb.

My recipe is an ode to his except mine takes 10 minutes to prepare and less than 20 minutes to cook!

Rice Pilaf
serves 4

3 cups of rice, washed and drained (long grain white rice works best ie. Basmati or Jasmine rice which is what I used for this recipe)
4 1/2 cups of chicken broth or less if you want a firmer texture
1 medium carrot, diced
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 stalk of celery, diced
1/2 of a medium red pepper, diced
1/2 teaspoon of orange zest, optional
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of coarse salt
Pepper (to your taste)
1 tablespoon butter
Raisins and chopped nuts, optional

(A note on cooking rice: not all rice are made equal. Some require a lot of liquid to cook. For the Thai Jasmine grain we buy, 1 cup of rice requires 2 cups of liquid, 2 cups of rice require 3, and so on. Others have a one to one ratio. For this recipe, I added an extra 1/2 cup of broth accounting for the liquid required to cook the other ingredients.)

Put the first 10 ingredients (and raisins if you choose to use some) into the pot of the rice cooker. Stir to incorporate the vegetables with the rice. Set the pot on the cooker and press cook/start.

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After 10 minutes or halfway through the cooking process, stir the mixture.

When the rice is done, add the butter and fluff the rice. I find that when cooking anything other than rice in my cooker, a dark, almost burnt crust forms at the bottom. I enjoy this but if you don’t, try not to scratch the bottom of the pot when fluffing the rice so as not to stir the crust with the rest of the rice.

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You can garnish with chopped nuts and parsley to jazz it up even more.

That’s it! Enjoy.

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C is for Cookie

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Christmas is long gone, winter is in full swing and in a week, I am going back to work after a long but super fun maternity leave. I do still find myself pining over all the merrymaking and all the merry baking done over the holidays. As I am pretty impressed with myself for diving head first into the world of baking cookies, I want to share with you one of my successes.

This past Christmas, I went full throttle on the baking front, compensating for being kept on the sidelines in 2011. I was on the couch that Christmas, watching the hubbub whilst growing a baby. Oh, but this time I was unstoppable! I even recruited one of my sisters on Christmas Eve to watch over my munchkins so I can try to make more sweets for the night’s dinner party. The recipe I chose, Pierre Herme’s Korova Cookies, turned out to be a big hit at my mom’s Christmas Eve dinner, our Filipino Noche Buena.

Korova Cookies is among the collection of luscious deserts in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets. Her cookbook is a treasure trove of decadent desserts, pastries and treats, each recipe authored by a renowned French chef or originating from a popular patisserie. All of the sweet shops featured in the book are beloved institutions in Paris and each pastry chef, an icon.

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For example, Stohrer, a beautiful patisserie in Les Halles, is 300 plus years old and a permanent fixture in the 1st district. The founder, Monsieur Stohrer was Louis the 15th’s chef! At Stohrer, I first tasted what real croissants should taste like. The kind that still smells of butter even after you’re done gobbling it up. Not the kind you get bulk at Costco or one that hides behind a plexiglass in the bread section of Safeway. It cannot be used for ham and cheese sandwiches no matter how much we may secretly enjoy it. Pastries from places like Stohrer are the kind so satisfying you only need one to make you happy. But I digress.

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(Picture of me and my sweet in Paris right after we gobbled up treats from Stohrer!)

My point is, Greenspan’s Paris Sweets is awesome and if you love baking and cookbooks, you should add this book to your collection. I bought my copy from Amazon.com for a great price. Click here to purchase your own copy.

Every recipe in Paris Sweets is to die for. It is fair to say, however, that a good number of the recipes are so intricate that you can tire yourself out just from reading them. As I used up most of my sister’s baby sitting time making Genoise cupcakes, I needed a quick recipe to make before she had to go back and help with the evening’s festivities. I settled for the Korova Cookies because it seemed easy and delicious. The result, a cookie that had deep chocolate flavours and one that melted in your mouth. Its decadence does not at all betray the fact that it can be made in practically no time.

If you’re in a pinch but you want to impress, make this recipe! It is sure to make you popular.

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Korova Cookies

Adapted from Pierre Hermé Paris from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (30 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablesppons (5 1/2) ounces; 150 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (120 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces (150 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small bits [I was in a rush so I used chocolate chip cookies and it worked perfectly fine.]

  1. Sift the flour, cocoa, and baking soda together and set aside. Using your paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light in colour and creamy in appearance. Add the sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for another minute or two. At this point, the recipe says to reduce the speed to low and add the sifted dry ingredients but, honestly, I have never been able to add flour in a moving mixer no matter how low the speed is without making a horrible mess. If you’re like me, best to stop the mixer altogether when adding dry ingredients. Just make sure they are incorporated at each stage of the addition. Add the chocolate pieces and mix. Just before it is fully incorporated, taking care not to overwork the dough, I stop the mixer and manually mix the dough with the paddle attachment. A few strokes will do. This gives me a chance to scrape up the bits of ingredients stuck at the bottom of the mixing bowl and incorporate it with the rest of the mixture. The mixture should look crumbly.
  2. Rather than turning the crumbly dough onto your clean kitchen counter, a quick, less messy trick I learned from my sister (the real cookie baker in the family) is turning butter-based dough onto a plastic wrap and use that wrap to gather and shape the dough. For this recipe, cut two sheets of plastic wrap, divide and turn the dough onto each wrap. Shape each dough into logs by lightly squeezing and lengthening the dough. Wrap the lengthened dough with plastic; wring both ends of the plastic and then roll the dough back and forth on the flat surface until it is shaped like a log and is 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) in diameter. I find that this method eliminates any air pockets. Chill for at least 2 hours. The dough can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen for a month. But really, you won’t be able to resist baking these cookies as soon as the 2 hour chilling time is up.20130114-225405.jpg
  3. Preheat the oven to 325 °F (165 °C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Using a sharp thin-bladed knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick. The rounds will break just as the recipe forewarns. I found that the reason for this was the chunks of chocolate pieces hardened by the chilling process. Don’t panic! Simply squeeze the broken-off bit back onto the cookie and reshape. Place the cookies on the prepared sheets about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart.
  5. Bake one sheet of cookie on the center rack of the oven for 12 minutes, no more no less. The cookies will come out looking undercook but this is exactly what the recipe calls for. Cool the baking sheet on a rack and let it stand until the cookies reach room temperature. Do the same with the second sheet of cookies.

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This is a perfect recipe to make ahead of the time as the dough can be chilled for 3 days or frozen. The recipe suggests that frozen dough need not be defrosted. It can be sliced and baked frozen. Simply add an extra minute to the baking time. The cookies may be stored in an airtight container for 3 days but who cam I kidding? These cookies, in an undisciplined household like mine, will not last 3 hours let alone 3 days!

Mango Mania

Mango is the Philippines’ national fruit so it should go without saying that the Mango Chiffon cake is the national cake. Of course, I don’t really know if that is true. If it isn’t, it should be because nothing brings … Continue reading