20 Jan 14

Vegetarian B’stilla

Roughly, very roughly, adapted from my chicken b’stilla recipe, the one that appeared in Naturally Good, published about a hundred years ago! seriously, my first cookbook. random house/faber and faber. self-illustrated. ahead of its times. before my daughter was even born.

flash forward to daughter grown up, with baby and vegetarian hubby. and i realized: she had never tasted my b’stilla!

I came up with this:

1 medium-large onion, chopped

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

about 2-3 cups diced butternut squash, pumpkin, calabaza, kabocha, any winter squash, peeled if skin is hard

1/2 teaspoon dried ginger or 2-3 teaspoons chopped fresh

a pinch or two of powdered cloves or the buds from 2-3 cloves, or the whole 2-3 cloves, as you like

several large–1/2 teaspoon?–pinches turmeric

about the same amount of cinnamon

1/4-1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley

1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

2-3 cups water

1 vegetable stock cube

Juice of 1/2 lemon or bottled lemon juice to taste

4-5 eggs

1/2-2/3 cup coarsely chopped toasted almonds mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, and 1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 lb filo dough

oil to drizzle on the layering of the filo

cinnamon and confectioners sugar to dust on top at the end

In a saute pan lightly saute the onions in olive oil, until softened, not browned, then add the garlic and pumpkin, sprinkle with the ginger, cloves, turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin, slowly cooking in the oil until the squash is about half-cooked; add the parsley, cilantro, stock cube and water, then cook over high heat until squash is cooked through.

Remove the squash from the pan and boil the liquid down until it reaches about 1/2 a cup or so, tasting for a vivid intensified reduction. Add the lemon juice, return the squash to the mixture, and set aside. You can do this the day before if you like.

Lightly beat the eggs with about 1/2-2/3 of the liquid from the squash, then scramble them softly only until curds form. Set aside to cool.

To assemble:

Line a baking pan with filo dough, brushing or drizzling olive oil on each layer; after 5 or 6 layers, sprinkle the nuts and about 2/3 of the egg mixture.

Oil and layer another 4-5 sheets of filo, then layer the squash and the rest of the egg. Wrap up the edges of the filo, oiling each one a small amount, say, a drizzle, then top with the rest of the filo dough, again oiled, maybe another couple of layers.

Bake at 375F/160C/gas mark 5 until the edges of the pastry are golden browned, say 30 minutes?

Remove from oven, and dust the pastry with confectioners/icing sugar and cinnamon, and serve. Best eaten with your hands, it goes without saying…..

12 Nov 13

November 11 is my grandmother’s birthday. She left us in 2001, but it doesn’t matter: each year on November 11 I think of her, and talk about her, as i did when she was alive, and every November 11, no matter what the year, it always is her birthday. It always is the day i give thanks for having had her, having been related to such an extraordinary person, and having been nurtured by her.

my grandfather's hobby was photography: here Bachi is his model

When I was little she would never accept my doing for her or buying her gifts, she was say: “please, keep your money, don’t get for me!”  After i left home, I wished i could have given her birthday parties and taken her places and in general treated her like the queen she deserved to be treated like, but she was firm in the grip of family life in Sacramento, where I and my wishes held no sway. The rest of the family had authority to take her places, do for her, even visit her, I could only do what they told me to. But what could i do, i had to put my faith in the fact that they loved her. But in the end, to be honest, I could not protect her when she was vulnerable as she could not protect me when i was small and vulnerable.

My biggest regret–no one’s fault, the fault of time’s ravages only– was that at age 90+, she was unable to travel to the UK to see her grand-daughter, Leah: far right in the picture with Bachi, graduate from Medical School. Speaking on the phone to Bachi, listening to her rich  New York accented voice, she was so happy, and proud, so proud. Her little Leah, a doctor.

when leah was 2 or 3, with her Bachi......

Leah was very close with her Bachi, as was my brother and I. I divorced when Leah was tiny, and i brought her often to Bachi, all the time often. At her house with Snooki, former hairdresser-poodle, white fluffy Snooki who was devoted to Bachi, and when Leah came along, devoted to her as well.  Here is the thing about Bachi that of all the wonderful things that people know/knew about her, I don’t think that many realized: she was so much fun. Such a sense of playfulness. Most people saw her as classy (she was), hard-working (no one worked harder), efficient (very, about everything). Energetic: don’t even ask.

But fun: so much fun to be with. When Leah was there Bachi would serve her signature dessert–coffee ice cream–in teeny tiny little thimble sized cups to her, and she would set them all out for little Leah to eat from them, little spoon, little tongue, big flavour and enjoyment. And then there were the checkbooks: Bachi worked for my uncle running the office of the plumbing business and insurance office, bringing home MASSIVE bags of paperwork every night. Huge shopping bags filled with paperwork. As she did her work, Leah wanted to do work too. Bachi shared her work with Leah: checkbooks. A big bag of checkbooks, and Bachi would toss them all over the floor, for Leah and her to crawl after…….it was like celebrating New Years Eve! Throw the checkbooks, crawl after them, giggle giggle giggle, laugh until you cry, then throw them again and crawl crawl crawl, laughing all the way…..and then there was “bang on the pots”: wooden spoons, big pots, hit hit hit until you couldn’t take it anymore.

For Leah, these games started when she was tiny: crawling baby  tiny. And continued until she was six or eight, around the time that Bachi broke her hip which facilitated two things:  her daughters “convinced” her (she was never convinced, always mourned her own home and feeding all who came) to sell her house and move into assisted living. And my mother gave away her beloved little poodle, Snooki, when Bachi was in the hospital. She blamed Snooki for Bachi’s fall. Snooki was blameless; her hip snapped because it was ready to anyhow. She loved Snooki and Leah loved Snooki. After my mother took him to the pound he wasn’t mentioned again for many years. Never with Bachi. When Leah grew up, and got her own poodle, we spoke of Snooki again. Bachi was gone by then.

For my brother, Bryan/Brian, it wasn’t tossing the checkbooks, nor was it banging on the pots and pans (though we did it on New Years Eve). It was the pawn shop. And sleeping over Saturday night when our parents went out. The sound of the grandfather clock ticking ticking ticking and bonging on the half hour once, on the hour with the number. It was spoonfuls of brandy/Port and honey when we were ill,  ice cream at Vic’s around the corner when we were well, and waking up to the smells of Sunday: matzo brie and bacon, chicken soup simmering for later, a big pot of something meaty, like chickens roasting with meatballs or stuffed cabbage or lamb braised with onions. And kasha, or potatoes, with alphabets for the soup.

It was about how if i woke up in the middle of the night i would see Bachi curled up on the bottom of my  bed, or on my brothers bed (later, on Leah’s bed), sleeping there with the love of being close to us. It was the closest to be cherished my brother or I ever felt in childhood.

Her name wasn’t always Bachi. Before Bachi, it was: Sophia Dubowsky. Before Dubowsky, she was Sophia Pockrass.

She got her name, Bachi, in the source of all things good to my brother and I: The pawn shop: (to be continued):

11 Nov 13

Want a spoonful of luscious creamy Meyer Lemon panna cotta?

For dessert at our Paris Pop-up Supper Club, I made a Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta from lemons I toted back from a friend’s San Francisco tree. You can make this using ordinary lemons, but the Meyers have a sweet strong perfume which is heavenly, just heavenly. On the other hand, they are not very acidic, so for this reason I recommend cutting the fragrant Meyers with ordinary lemons, say: 2/3 Meyer and 1/3 ordinary lemon juice such as Eureka, the sort sold in any grocers.

Did I mention that this was LUSCIOUS? And if by some chance it doesn’t gel, I freeze it for ice cream. Just sayin’…….

While individual moulds are lovely and gel more quickly, they are a bit more fiddly; i like the ease of pouring it into one big bowl, and also the rustic presentation of one big shallow bowl or pan…..it reminds me of eating panna cotta in a mountaintop village outside of Torino. There the panna cotta was unflavoured, pure cream, as is traditional, and the trattoria that dished it up did so with the style of a mamma, or a grandmamma, in the kitchen…….urging me to try, to have a little more…..”people drive all the way from Torino to taste this panna cotta!”.

Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta

Serves 6 – 8

For the best balance of lemon flavour, i recommend using about 2/3 Meyer lemons and 1/3 regular lemons (Eureka or other acidic lemon), both for juice and zest; i find the powdered gelatin works best (ie most easiest) rather than the sheet gelatin as I am fairly sloppy about exactly measurements having made this all over the world without the necessary measuring cups. If by some chance it doesn’t seem to be firming up fast enough you can put it in the freezer for a small amount of time, say 30-40 minutes– then back into the fridge.

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1 cup + 2 tablespoons superfine sugar

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup Meyer lemon juice (4-6 Meyer lemons)

2 tablespoons Meyer lemon peel minced (little chunks best)

1 cup nonfat Greek-style yogurt

Sprinkle gelatin over ½ cup cold water in a small bowl; let it soften for 5 minutes or until no dry spots remain.

Combine sugar and ½ cup of water in a saucepan; bring to a simmer and stir until sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and add the gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin dissolves. Add cream, lemon juice and lemon zest. Let cool slightly.

Put yogurt in a mixing bowl and whisk to loosen it up. Add the cream mixture, little by little, gently stirring after each addition to break up any lumps of yogurt before adding more cream. Do not over stir.

Pour mixture into a 5-cup bowl or mold or use individual ramekins. Tap the bowl on the counter to remove air bubbles. Cover and chill until set, 6 hours or overnight.

Photo credit: Jill Hamilton-Brice

15 Sep 13

a path that leads from the forest to the sea

Sopot, Gdansk. Poland. The hotel receptionist was lamenting her sister’s pierogi restaurants closing. the list of her offerings was huge–i’m going to have help translating it later today and will post. meanwhile, sigh, “it was just that pierogi you can find everywhere”.

Sopot is a mittel europa style seaside resort–the sort of place that would be the backdrop to an atmospheric artsy film; probably the misty drizzly weather contributed to the feeling. In anticipation of pierogi I spent the day walking from one end of the town to the other, along the path that runs next to the beach, through a sort of forest area, studded with parks. people are out walking, walking their dogs, walking their children, walking their lovers; along the way there are bars an cafes, restaurants, all in little shacks or sort of chalets, on the beach. stalls sell trinkets, bicyclists roll down the bike trail, the sound of the waves i just on the other side of the greenery, paths lead through only a few yards of forest to the water every so often, and i’m thinking that if it were a film, it would probably be in black and white and  utterly charming.

the path through the forest

young woman selling beer on the beach

and then there are the pierogi. but wait: there are also herring. here is my herring starter: madjes herring: so plump, so chewy, so umami, on a bed of chopped lightly pickled cucumbers. Apparently, this region is the capital of herring and to be honest: its possible i was convinced to come here when I saw a foto of a herring and smoked fish stall in the marketplace.

baltic herring with pickled cucumber salad, local bread, Polish beer

now, on to the pierogi. my FIRST pierogi in Poland (this trip): venison pierogi with wild mushroom sauce, and a dab of red onion marmalade right in the middle, to dab onto big fat bites of pierogi.

venison-filled pierogi in wild mushroom sauce, red onion marmalade

Tomorrow I’m meeting Sarna and her group from Poland Culinary Vacations. Its because of Sarna that I’ve fallen in love with Poland; she first invited me to Wroclaw and lower Silesia several years ago. This year when she said she was doing tours of the Pomeranian coast, I said: “I’m in!”.

In part because i remembered the pierogi.

But then pierogi and i go way back. Its just that its so delightful to eat them in their own home territory, because they are so friggin good! and because the attitude towards them is…..affectionate. and because they are considered proper every day food. its good to eat pierogies!

29 Aug 13

It was one of the first recipes I ever made: clipped from an underground newspaper then made into my own. Was it the first time I pureed something? pretty sure of it. First time i made a soup other than chicken? its gotta be. First time i even contemplated that one could make their own tomato soup, not from a can? definately (taking into consideration I was still a kid).

But it didn’t take long until I discovered a whole world of fabulous things to cook, and wild spices and roller-coaster taste combinations–each time I went into that kitchen I wanted to experiment further, wilder, more adventuresome. And its kinda been like that ever since.

Needless to say, my tomato soup fell by the wayside. But last night, i was thinking: its tomato season. Though my tomatoes were not as fabulous as they might have been ( in fact they were pretty miserable; i added some canned to the mix to oomph them up)I suspect what i was really thinking was remembering:  the lovely bowlful of vaguely creamy tomato soup and how warm and cozy it made me feel.

And while it all may have stayed in the land of nostalgia which is never as good now as it was then….this soup is still good, in fact, its WONDERFUL. Right. Now.

Tomato Soup from another Era (and just as delicious now)

Serves about 4, or two,  having seconds

The amounts here are hugely variable; i added some canned/tinned tomatoes to oomph up my anemic ones; alternatively you could add a spoonful or two of tomato paste, or if the tomatoes are lovely in their own right: you need nothing else at all.

I topped the soup with Greek yogurt though I remember the original called for sour cream–either is delicious. And originally i cooked the onions and tomatoes in butter; last night I used olive oil and it was sleeker, more tomatoey. And on top  I sprinkled basil from my garden instead of the marjoram from way back when. Frankly i think it was because marjoram was always growing in my garden; these days its basil.

As the variables on this soup vary so hugely: from the taste and texture of the tomatoes to the size of the onions, you’ll have to adjust as you go:  soup too thick? thin it down with broth or water, soup too thin? tomato paste, or better yet: start with it too thick and add more liquid as needed.

Oh, and i used, for the broth, a porcini bouillion/stock cube mixed with water: the soup doesn’t taste like mushrooms necessarily but it ooooomphs up its umami-ness.

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 small white/yellow onions, or 1 medium-large one, coarsely chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped or sliced

20 medium large tomatoes, coarsely chopped (including their juices) or: 5-10 fresh tomatoes, chopped, PLUS one can/tin of chopped tomatoes including their juices; if tomatoes are okay, or if they aren’t okay but you don’t want to use canned, just add a spoonful or two of tomato paste

2 cups vegetable/chicken broth/bouillion cube plus water

1 1/2 -2 cups whole milk

Salt and pepper to taste

About 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, for dollops on top

Basil leaves for snipping

In a heavy saucepan heat the olive oil and lightly saute the onions and garlic; when just softened a bit–don’t brown, you don’t want an overcooked caramelized onion taste–add the tomatoes and raise the heat a little, stirring a few times as the tomatoes cook down. Cook about……shall we say 10  minutes? Then, lets all the broth/bouillon cube and water. Keep cooking, another 10-15 minutes, over medium heat. You want the tomatoes cooked, warmed, but not long simmered. You still want freshness.

Puree the solids with the milk; i used a blender but you could use a food processor or immersion blender.

Return to pan with the tomato cooking liquid/broth. Salt and pepper to taste. Heat through to just bubbling around the edges, then ladle up into bowls, serving each with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of basil.


Here is what I’m thinking: that this soup would be fabulous customized: with Indian spices, with fresh ginger, or Middle Eastern. Or how it would be with chickpeas floating in it and a drizzle of olive oil? And what about Mexican, with roasted chillies? in other words, i’m thinking that the roller-coaster ride of exotic-ness might fit very nicely into this recipe. I’ll keep you updated with any discoveries…….

27 Jul 13

You would love these: they are so perfectly caramel-ly, crisp, just bitter enough to be complex rather than just sweet. They are my magnum opus of confectionary, at least so far!

Instead of a recipe, a description: since here are only TWO ingredients: sesame seeds, and sugar, (though the addition of a sprinkle of cinnamon is a fragrant addition, and very good too!).

Sesame seeds: a few ounces, ie about 3/4 cup hulled sesame seeds

Sugar, about an equal amount

In a heavy ungreased frying pan toast the sesame seeds by placing them in the pan, over medium or medium-low heat, turning them every so often as they colour and turn fragrant. You want them toasty and golden brown.

Pour onto a plate and set aside for a moment.

Into the same pan pour the sugar in an even layer, over medium-low heat, letting the sugar melt into caramel. when it begins to melt and brown but not burn, keep the heat as low as it needs to be, return the sesame seeds to the pan, sprinkling them evenly over the melting sugar.

Using a wooden spatula, scrape the caramel and sugar up, combining it with the sesame seeds, and keep it turning until the sugar is all melted and golden brown. Do not let burn.

Scrape onto a plate, in a thinnish layer, and leave to cool. When its just a little warm and still maleable, pull/scrape the confection from the plate so it doesn’t stick. it will sort of blob up and form uneven chunks, which i find hugely appealing, even more than flat candies.

Cool and store wrapped airtight.

If cinnamon is desired–and sometimes i totally desire it–sprinkle it in when you add the sesame seeds……

And don’t stress if there are still tiny unmelted sugar lumps in your sesame mix, it happens to me too (if you look closely at the pic you’ll see a few). It doesn’t seem to interfere with the deliciousness of the treat…..

Variation: Many Seeded Caramel Treat

Instead of just sesame seeds, the treat is delicious with a mixture of seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, hemp, etc.

22 Jul 13

Actually pickle soup is good when the weather is cold, too. And its equally delicious when I’m in a good mood.

Did my mood improve after I ate this soup? well, I ate two bowlfuls, and by then I was  hydrated and resalted from the pickle juice and soup broth, and to tell you the truth: I WAS in a better mood.

I must take this moment to mention COLD pickle soup, which i have teased people with my mentioning in various social networks, but that is a completely different soup, a different recipe. I will put it up though, i promise. But in the meantime, this pickle soup was something I tasted first in a Polish restaurant (“c’mon: pickle soup???? cream of pickle soup????” yes that really was me, hard to believe, i know) and was won over just one spoon into my pickle soup experience. In Poland I discovered it was also garlicky, and meaty, and lush. At home in my own kitchen I realized I could put a whole garden of vegetables in it, and if i didn’t have a meaty broth, with chunks of meat, I could use a porcini bouillon cube and a handful of meatballs.

Instead of sweet cream, I used sour, then i used yogurt which i like even more. And in addition to the dill, I snipped a handful of chervil and found it brought the whole pickle-y thing together like magic.

this is the soup without the meatballs, just the vegetables. and these, are the meatballs.

10 Jul 13

Broccoli with Chile-Bean Sauce and Tofu

Serves 2-3 or more, as part of a meal, or 1 as the whole meal itself

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 small chunk of ginger, grated or chopped: about 1/2 teaspoons worth, or to taste

2 green onions, thinly sliced, or 1/2 small leek, thinly sliced, or other onion such as shallot, red, yellow or white onion

1 teaspoon vegetable or peanut oil

1 small head of broccoli, stem cut into bite sized pieces, florets separated and cut bite-sized, too

1/2 teaspoon mild paprika, preferably the smoked type (pimenton)

Sprinkle (big pinch) Chinese 5-spice powder

1-2 tablespoons mild miso or 1 sachet of instant miso soup

1 1/2 cups chicken broth or water

1-2 tablespoons Chinese Chile Bean Sauce (hot bean sauce)

1 tablespoon tamarind chutney (Indian) or tamarind paste+1/2 teaspoon sugar, or hoisin sauce+dash vinegar

6-8 ounces (175-225 g) firmish tofu, torn into chunks

Drizzle of sesame oil

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro/coriander leaves

Extra hot sauce such as garlic-chile or siracha, to taste

In a heavy nonstick frying pan or wok quickly stir fry the garlic, ginger, and green onions/leek/onions in the vegetable oil until aromatic, then add the broccoli and cook a few minutes (should still be crunchy and raw-ish).

Sprinkle with the paprika and five spice, cook and stir fry a minute or two, then add the miso and broth or water. Stir together, cover, and cook a few minutes only until the broccoli is crunchy-tender.

Add chile bean sauce (hot bean sauce), tamarind chutney or hoisin sauce, and tofu. Season to taste with soy sauce and extra hot sauce if desired/to taste, and serve drizzled with sesame oil and sprinkled with cilantro/coriander leaves.

Leftovers are terrific served with noodles, and a sprinkling of chopped peanuts.

10 Jul 13

Thanks to Amanda Johnson and Pamela Sheldon John, whose recipe this is adapted from.

Makes one nice cake. Very Nice Cake.

2 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 cup extra virgin olive oil, with lots of flavour (I used a Greek oil, from Crete)

1 cup milk (I used skim) or: EVEN BETTER: 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (fat free is fine)

Grated zest of 2 lemons

2 cups plus 1 tablespoon self rising flour, or enough to make a texture of cake batter

1/4 -1/2 teaspoon baking powder (admission here: i didn’t measure, just pinched, so its somewhere in between)

pinch (or two) salt

Optional: About 1/2 cup dried or half dry half fresh (and pitted, macerated with a bit of sugar) sour cherries

Powdered sugar for sifting over the top, if you like.

Preheat oven to 350F/ 160C/ gas mark 5. 

Prepare a baking pan–I used a tarte tatin pan which has a heavy bottom and sides and is about 10 inches in diameter– by rubbing with butter or oil, then dusting with flour to coat the inside of the pan.Set aside.

Beat the eggs with the sugar (I used a fork–very low tech), and when mixed well add the milk and lemon zest, and mix in well.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, mix until JUST combined (mine was a bit lumpy), then if using, stir in the cherries. Pour batter into the prepared pan, and at this point I urge you to lick the batter from the bowl and spoon. So good!

Bake for about 50 minutes or so; the outside will be darkish brownish, the cake will be ready when the insides are no longer liquidy. Use a skewer (or dry spaghetti, or paring knife) to check for doneness.

Invert onto a plate, then invert onto another plate so that its right side up. In the process of inverting, this confession needs to be shared: the bottom, or much of it, didn’t come out with the rest of the cake. Not to worry, I just scraped it out with a spatula, patted it back onto the cake, and by the time I inverted it right side up, no one could tell.

And if you like, you can sift some icing sugar (powdered sugar) right over the top.

7 Jul 13

Lately I’ve been simmering pinto beans, rediscovering how amazing these little beans, such humble beans, are! Especially when i’m cooking for vegetarians, for whom pinto beans in restaurants are often off-limits ( having been simmered with a little bit of pig).

My recent pinto bean epiphany began at New Yorks Union Square Greenmarket, when I discovered a little basket of  Jack and the Beanstalk-like beans sitting by themselves along with a shelf of other vegetables. “They are almost fresh from the stalk” said the vendor “and need no soaking”. At my daughters home I simmered them, without soaking, in water with a chunk of onion, a few whole garlics, and towards the end, a sprinkle of seasalt , cumin, and glugg of olive oil.  They were creamy and tender, and incredibly memorable–it seems like we were all going around murmuring: “these beans are amazing” each time someone brought out the pot for a snack.

For, like any pot of beans, they are delicious eaten almost pristinely the first meal: a bowl of tender beans, their cooking liquid, perhaps a little cheese melting in, a scattering of chopped onions and fresh thyme on top. Or not.

Next day beans morph into a wide array of  dishes: eaten cool, the beans  drizzed with olive oil and sprinkled with fresh rosemary;   they make consummate refried beans, of course,  with melted cheese, tortillas and fresh salsa or simmered with bacon, beer, cumin, diced tomatoes, and a few drops of chipotle for one rockin’ bowl of drunken beans; or you could  spoon your tender beans  into a Nicoise-ish soupe au pistou. Then there is pasta fagioli: the beans and their liquid cooked with pasta, tomatoes, loads of garlic and olive oil. oh yes.

Back at home in the UK I discovered a jar of pinto beans in the back of my shelf, and though they were not farm-fresh (ie they needed to be soaked) they did  simmer up into a potful of beauty:  equally delicious to the greenmarket beans,  so…..how can i say, moodily delicious spooned up from our bowls? so simple and so complex at the same time. Was it the beans (both different),  cooking method (just simmering),  or the olive oil (both different). The only answer I can come up with is a love of beans–somehow it reaches into the beans and brings out their best.

Yesterday I reached the last bowlful or two in the pot and remembered how good rice is when its cooked with beans. This is the result.

We ate it on a hot summers evening, with a meaty beefy garlic and parsley redolant hamburger patties. And sliced hubbard squash cooked with cinnamon and cumin.

Pinto Beans with Rice, Tomatoes and Preserved Lemon

Serves 4

About 1/2-2/3 cup in volume (4 oz/125g) white rice

3 thinly sliced garlic cloves

1 teaspoon or so olive oil

About 1 1/2 cups/400g  cooked pinto beans with their liquid (or…..okay one tin plus its liquid but fresh is the better way to go with this)

A few good shakes of cumin–ground and/or seeds

About 3 oz/ 100g white cheese such as Jack, Tuscan fresh-ish pecorino, manchego, etc, diced

1 green onion, thinly sliced

1 small to medium tomato, diced

1-2 tablespoons tomato paste

Several shakes hot sauce–I used a Chinese garlic-chile sauce (to be recommended)

2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro (I used the tips and flowers as well from my garden)

About 1/2 or more, to taste, preserved lemon, diced

1-2 teaspoons preserved lemon liquid

Place raw rice in a bowl and cover with water. Rinse well, and repeat; If desired–and I always think the rice has a better flavour this way–soak for about half an hour before hand.Drain.

Warm the thinly sliced garlic in the olive oil, then add the drained rice, cook a few minutes, then add about an equal amount of water to the volume of rice. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes or until it is half-cooked through.

Add the beans and their liquid plus the cumin and cook together about 5 minutes to warm through the beans and meld them with the rice. Don’t stir so much as fork it up to mix.

Add the cheese, let melt, then remove from the heat and add the green onion, tomato, tomato paste, and hot sauce.

Just before serving mix in the cilantro, preserved lemon, and the preserved lemon liquid.