Another evening in and a chance to try out for myself a recipe for Orange Stew and Chicken from a book on Persian Food I picked up in Waterstones earlier this year by Margaret Shaida. Persia is of course now part of Iran and I was tempted into buying the book after speaking to Kerem from the grocers on Oxton Road on the different ways they have for cooking rice.
He explained that is was important to soak the rice before cooking it, to cook it briefly in boiling water and then to rinse it in warm water before it goes back into the pan to steam. It is this last part of the process that is crucial in terms of the texture of the rice and the possibilities for adding crunch. Melt a good slab of butter in the bottom of the pan before putting the rice back and then put it on the lowest possible heat with the lid of the pan covered in a tea towel to absorb the steam. It should be possible to leave it to cook like this for almost an hour with the rice developing a crust on the bottom of the pan. For variation you can put some egg with the butter or a layer of thinly sliced potato.
As I leaved through the book I found a section on the cooking of rice that seemed to replicate almost exactly the process as described to me by Kerem. Having bought the book I went through a few more books from the shelves in the kitchen and found that Claudia Roden on Middle Eastern Food and Arto de Haroutunian on Middle Eastern Cookerey both contain similar descriptions on the process. It appears again, albeit in more sophisticated form in the Moro cookbooks andCrazy Water Pickled Lemons by Diane Henry. I won’t go through the technique in detail here but will say that although the cooking of rice likes this can appear labour intensive once you have done it a few times, and have got used to the steps to be taken it is almost as simple as boiling up a panful of pasta. It just needs time and care to make sure that the tea towel you wrap the lid of the pan in does not catch fire on the hob.
Having bought the book I spotted a recipe for chicken with orange sauce. It is of course the wrong time of year for Seville oranges but the recipe suggested that the bitterness could be replicated by the juice of a lemon. Apart from the orange the only flavouring was cinnamon, salt, pepper and a carrot choped into matchsticks and cook down with an onion. There was a small frustration as I was cooking the rice and found there was no butter in the fridge but a thin layer of olive oil worked almost as well and developed a slightly lighter crust. For someone who is not a great fan of marmalade is was delicious.