Monday, March 26, 2012

Chickpea and cherry pilaf with cumin--did I say Pilafs? :)


I have been a big advocate of simplicity and minimalism. And Pilaf is not something people traditionally associate with either ease or simplicity. They are wrong

Pilafs are rice based dishes of Turkish fame; they are usually cooked along with any combination of fruits, vegetables, beans meat and spices (fish is not an usual component of Pilafs). Although Pilafs are not yet the most popular rice based dishes, they are certainly some of the most versatile ones in the world. Yes,  Pilafs are very versatile and very gorgeous. It can be a simple affair, that can be put together in 20 min or an exhaustive affair lasting a few hours. But whether it takes a few minutes or a few hours to put together, the end result is a delightful combination that can stand alone as a main dish or can be an accompaniment that gets its share of fanfare :)

Over the years I have spent an inordinate amount of time (and money) trying to understand this incredibly aromatic rice based dish called Pilaf. Originating across different sub-regions of the middle-east, Pilaf today is an integral part of Turkish cuisine. But before the Turkish people monopolized this dish, Pilafs did have a long journey. Across the desserts of the middle east, along the banks of the Nile and across the Mediterranean, pilafs have traveled with migrating hordes of people for thousands of years. As a result, along the way it has picked up and incorporated many a tradition, many a folk lore and many a sentiment. True that today it has rest its case with Turkey, but if you ask a thousand people from Turkey, you will see that there is a thousand 'authentic' pilaf recipes.  The truth is, every kitchen in Turkey bears a legacy of that long sojourn from the middle east, that was once a part of the Persian empire, to Turkish districts that is now a part of Europe.

As a result of such a long history Pilafs are versatile and forgiving. You can almost never go wrong making it and that is both the beauty of this dish and reason for its simplicity. Being a part of the poor mans diet and being served in the palace of the imam does not happen when a dish is rigid! Or at least, this is the conclusion that I have arrived at from poring over books and experimenting in the kitchen over the last four (and more) years with Pilafs.

Pilafs are simple to make and elegant in spirit. And all that is required on our part is thinking out of the box. Today I post the simplest of them all. One that captured the love of all four hundred guests at my sister's wedding in India last fall.  

Chickpea and cherry pilaf with cumin 
(a combination of two pilafs from the book Classic Turkish Cuisine)

Ingredients
1 cup of rice. I like Basmati. Any other long grain should work great.
1 cup of chickpeas. I use canned ones. I rinse off very well. But you can cook some from scratch (Its useful to soak the dry chickpeas overnight prior to cooking. Cooking take anything between 45 min- 2 hour)
3/4th cup of dried sour cherries. You can also Raisins, Prunes or any combination You can use fresh fruits. In that case go for 1 cup. No point trying to remove the piths for cherries. But I like the use of dry sour cherries
1 tsp of whole cumin
A pinch of chiili flakes. Optional
2 cups of chicken broth or water. Warm or at least at room temperature or warm 
1.5 tbsf olive oil.
Garnish with Parsley.

In a pot, heat oil. When oil is hot, reduce to medium low (spices burn at high heat). Add the cumin and chilli flakes. Toss in oil for a few secs till fragrant. Add the chickpeas (make sure they are well drained and dry). Toss in oil till well covered in spices. Add the sour cherries. Mix around. About 2 mins. Add the rice. Toss to coat with spices, oils, chickpeas and sour cherries. Carefully add the stock and water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. After things come to a rolling boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook till all water is absorbed. ~ 20 mins.

Serve warm or at room temperature with some some stuffed and roasted eggplant

A truly Turkish evening :)




Happy eating and healthy living!

3 comments:

The Japanese Redneck said...

Now that is very delicious looking.

Ansh said...

Loved the very informative post. You have special gift for writing. :)

Keep writing.

Hooney Macarooney said...

The photo is so pretty. I like the instagram effect.