How to cook Persian Rice

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Apart from preparing gluten-free granola bars from Green Kitchen Stories, trying to figure out how to handle the heat in Austria which is becoming unbearable and thinking about what I will need/can leave behind with a clear conscience for our road trip through Denmark and Sweden in two days time (!!), I’ve been having rice on my mind for more than a month. Not only rice, but Persian rice. Now what is so special about Persian rice, you may ask? Persians will cringe at this question. Persian rice is probably the way of preparing rice. Let me explain.

Rice is considered as side dish in many cultures, in Persia there is no such thing as rice as a side dish. Rice stars almost every Persian dish.

The first thing that makes Persian rice special is that it’s Persian.

Just kidding. Before cooking the rice, the rice is rinsed to remove the starch and prevent it from sticking together after cooking (like sushi rice or risotto).

Another difference is that it is cooked like pasta for a few minutes, and then steamed.

The best part is undoubtedly the “tahdig” (pronounced ‘tah-deeg’, literally meaning ‘bottom of the pan’), the crunchy crust that causes fights at the table and is always the first thing gone at buffets.

Because I believe Persian rice to be one of the best things, I decided that pictures weren’t enough.

So here is my video and the detailed recipe below.

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Serves 4

  • 600 g / 3 1/2 cups Basmati rice (*Reyhani)                                                       This is a very generous calculation. Persians eat far more rice than Europeans, so you might want to adjust the amount of rice here
  • 2 litres of water
  • 5 tablespoons salt
  • a few strands of saffron, optional
  • 1-2 potatoes, optional
  • olive oil

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Put the rice in a bowl and wash it, about 6 to 8 times or until the water is clear. Cover the rice with water, add two tablespoons of salt and let the rice soak in cold water for one hour. (Make sure to add enough water, rice soaks up a lot of it!)

If you like potato tahdig, slice your potatoes and set aside. You can also use persian flat bread (lavash) or just leave it plain (to make rice tahdig).

After one hour, boil the water in a water kettle. Pour water in a big pot and add three tablespoons of salt (the water should taste saltier than the rice will be). Strain the rice and cook for 7 minutes on middle-high heat. The rice should be “al dente” – not completely cooked, far less falling apart, but not hard either.

Drain the rice and gently rinse with cold water to prevent further cooking.

In the same pot, heat some olive oil (bottom of the pot should be covered with oil) and cover with the potato slices/bread. Add the rice and with the back of a cooking spoon, make 5 holes.

Wrap the lid of the pot with a dish towel and cover the rice. Reduce to middle-low heat and cook the rice for 40 to 50 minutes. (the times depends a lot on the pot and your stove).

When the rice is cooked, you have two options:

1) Flip the rice on a tray and serve.

2) Put some rice in an extra bowl. In a mortar, grind the saffron and add a splash of hot water. Mix in the rice and set aside. Put the remaining rice on a tray and decorate with the saffron rice.

Enjoy. 

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Gluten-free Strawberry and Lemon Trifle

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It’s funny how with time, you realise you become more and more a somewhat younger version of your parents. I’m not talking about the obvious things like looks, speech and the like, which, by the way, are getting a bit exorbitantly similar for my taste. I am talking about the things you secretly do. Like dipping your strawberry into your indian-spiced stew (yes, I’m cooking stew at this time of year) and realising the little smile that creeps onto your face because you remember how your dad used to create the most terrible combinations of food when you were a little girl and how you knew you will never do this, because you know which foods go together well.

Apart from diagnosing similarities in my family, I’ve been also observing a lot of insane people on the street lately and I wonder what terrible thing could have happened in their lives that makes them act and say the things they say.

But because it probably is not very helpful to analyse random people’s behavior that much if you are training to become a primary school teacher, and apart from that analysing children’s behaviour is very much more entertaining anyways, I thought I’d share this with you. A young professor at my uni showed this to us in a seminar. I laugh every time I watch this and am looking forward to very fun times with the kids in my future classroom. Unfortunately it is in German, but even if you don’t understand a word, it’s probably just as funny to watch (look at those facial expressions!).

Also, when you realise you don’t have any of the equipment you would need to make a food photo look decent, and you go to your parent’s place on a weekend just to take pictures of food, you know you might be a bit too obsessed with your blog. Never mind.

Serves 4 (for a casserole dish double the amount of the ingredients – serves 8)

for the cake

  • 50 g hazelnuts or almonds, ground and roasted (1/2 cup)
  • 25 g gram (chickpea) flour (1/4 cup)
  • 20 g potato starch (1/4 cup)
  • 50 g brown sugar (1/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 50 ml rice milk (or any other gluten- and dairy free milk)
  • 20 ml coffee
  • 50 g oil (60 ml)

for the lemon cream and strawberry layer

  • 1 can coconut milk (400 ml), refrigerated for at least an hour
  • one organic lemon
  • vanilla sugar
  • 200 – 500 g strawberries (really depending on your taste)
  • sugar or agave/maple syrup to your taste

Line a cake tin with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F).

For the cake base, mix the dry ingredients (you may need to sieve them, as gram flour tends to be lumpy) and add the wet ones. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake the cake for about 8 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out dry.

Meanwhile prepare the coconut cream. Take the can out of the fridge (don’t shake!!) and scrape out the top, thickened cream (you won’t need the liquid for this recipe, but you can use it for cooking or smoothies). Grate off the lemon zest and add some vanilla sugar and zest to the cream. Refrigerate.

Wash the strawberries and pureé them (you may want to keep some for decoration). Add some sweetener of your choice if necssary.

Fresh strawberries

If you’re serving the trifle in glasses, crumble the cake with your hands and spread in some glasses or a baking dish (you may not need all the cake, depending on how cakey you like your trifle to be). Press down a little. For the casserole dish just leave the cake in the dish. Add the strawberry sauce and the coconut cream on top. Decorate with some more lemon zest, fresh strawberries or some dots of the strawberry sauce.

Enjoy. 

vegan gf recipes

glutenfree trifleVegan and gluten-free trifle

The Tomato Sauce Recipe you’ve been waiting for

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I’ve been telling you about this. How bad I am at taking decisions.

But, friends and foes: I did it. I decided where I want to go for my semester abroad and handed in all the papers needed. Puhhh.

Considering the fact that I’ve studied all possibilites and considered about 20 of the 24 countries on the list, and some five weeks ago, I pondered between Lyon and Stockholm, went to the Erasmus bureau, hoping the lady could help me with my decision, I am pretty impressed I have decided to go to Padua in the end.

How I got there? I’m not sure to be honest. Firstly, I speak Italian because my mum never gave up talking Italian to me (Grazie, Mami!), but obviously I have no idea whatsoever of grammar, rules and the like. Perfectioning my Italian skills sounded like a plausible reason and getting to know the culture you grew up with just as well. Also, not exactly irrelevant is what Italians stuff their face with. This is not the reason why I’m going there (!), but I’m not unhappy about what I will be eating there.

To celebrate I have finally come to a decision (but don’t know if they will take me, as there is a limited amount of spaces, but let’s ignore that for now), I thought sharing my favourite sugo recipe would be an appropriate time.

Easy vegan sugo

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Morocco Impressions and a Mini Travel Guide

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Some of you might now that travelling is one of my favourite things to do, and as my parents seem to tick as I do, some months ago my dad announced he wanted to take my mum and I on a great holiday. I did not complain. Instead, I suggested taking one of my best friends with us, which obviously added to the fun of the trip.

We travelled through Morocco. Our first stop was Marrakech, which is a beautiful city with beautiful people, breathtaking nature and gardens, impressive palaces and – food.

There is no adjective before the word food, because contrary to my expectation there weren’t innumerable vegetarian dishes to choose from on the menus, but basically two dishes, which, if you were lucky enough, were cooked with meat.

Tagine and Couscous.

I love Couscous and I love vegetables, but trust me, if you eat couscous eight days in a row, you kind of wish that wheat was never discovered.

Also, I probably drank more orange juice in one day than the amount of water I drink in one week.

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Vegan Spanish Tortilla

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I have a new breakfast habit. Toast with almond butter and honey. When I was living in London, my flat mate would eat the same breakfast every morning. One toast with cheese, one toast with almond butter and honey and a bowl of milk with cereal. Every single morning.

Although I don’t have the same breakfast every morning, I find myself eating toast with almond butter and honey quite often lately. I truly believe this combination to be on my top 5 list of amazing food combinations everyone should have at least once a week (next to lemon juice and garlic on roasted vegetables).

The recipe I’m sharing with you today has been on my to-post list for a considerbaly long time, given the fact we make this frittata, or spanish tortilla, about once a week.

It’s gluten-free and fairly easy to make, super rich and actually tastes like a real-deal spanish tortilla, with the slight difference that it’s vegan.

Vegan tortilla

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Vanillekipferl

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It seems to me celebrating christmas has become something purely materialistic. It’s a lot about presents and stress, because my goodness I need a present for him and her and for my boss and my colleagues and having one for my mother’s best friend would be good and the cleaning lady who greets me every now and then. About having money and supporting big companies that let us think that we need so much we actually wouldn’t even know about if it wasn’t for the perfect advertising spot on TV. About the perfectly decorated christmas tree. About the post of you and your friends wearing red hats with a white pompom. 

Let’s stay positive. Although there is no doubt in my opinion that people actually don’t celebrate the birth of Jesus, but a lot of other stuff that is far from anything religious, I enjoy this time of year. I love the atmosphere, love having a waffle at a Christkindmarkt, love seeing lights everywhere, love seeing people, families being united. In my family my great-grandmother was the only Christian, so we would celebreate christmas with her and of course, especially as a kid, it was very exciting and something I was looking forward to all december. I’m just asking myself if we are using a religious holiday to simply spend an evening with our family, cut down trees, prepare good food and think of how big next years christmas tree should be. And I’m wondering if yes, if this is something bad. Is christmas being celebrated as a religious holiday or simply as a family feast? Is there something bad about the latter? How do you celebrate christmas?

So although this year we don’t celebrate christmas, baking christmas cookies, or Weihnachtsbäckerei, are something I look forward to every year. I made a nice batch with a friend two days ago, and another one today. Vanillekipferl are so classy in Austria, I thought you might enjoy the recipe. And not only the recipe.

Vanillekipferl mit Mandeln

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Cashew and Date Truffles

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Considering the fact that the two main ingredients of these truffles are not very likely to be in the upper half of your list of favourite ingredients for sweets, I tried my best to find a fancy name. Unfortunately, the name still sounds about a hundred times worse than the taste.

The idea for this recipe comes from my aunt’s friend and I adapted it to make it as simple and foolproof as possible. When I lived in London, I often visited my family and my aunt kept telling me about these truffles her friend makes. Apparently they only contained dates, cashews, cocoa, some coconut and hemp powder. And they tasted so good. I was more than sceptical, because first of all, I am not the biggest fan of cashews and although I like dates, I couldn’t imagine how a combination of cashews and dates could possibly be so good that my aunt would repeatedly wax lyrical about them.

So it turned out they are addictive. And I mean it. I’m not sure how often you find the words healthy and addictive in one sentence. Not very often, I suppose.

Cashew and dates

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Quick and Warming Dal

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I don’t know about you, but where I am sitting right now it’s 17° C outside with sunshine. Did I miss something? It’s November.

Because the weather situation will very likely change in a few days, here’s a recipe to have on hand for cold, busy days. This soup has become one of my favourite soup recipes because it’s super-quick and substantial. Perfect with toasted bread, as something to bring to a potluck, because who doesn’t love Indian food?, or, if you fancy savoury breakfasts, as a breakfast. Call me crazy.

Also, for those of you who have a command of the German language: an article about my blog and what I would do if I had one wish in gastronews.vienna 

Indian Daal

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The Bread Recipe You’ve Been Waiting For.

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I just found this story I wrote about three weeks ago with the intention of posting a recipe. Well. I guess that didn’t exactly work. 

Have you every forgotten something on the bus? I have. I once left a really really nice lentil salad I had prepared the night before with a lot of love and was looking forward to first thing in the morning.

Have you every forgotten something important on the bus? Well. Yeah. There is a difference between a lentil salad and your birth certificate, certificate of citizenship and graduation diploma.

My feet are actually hurting while I am writing this and I am fairly exhausted, because I believe I haven’t walked/rushed/panicked/been desperate (the combination of all this – so much fun!) that much for a very long time. Just because I wasn’t focused (why were phones invented, again?) that moment I got off the bus.

I was on my way to university to bring them all those documents. And then: see above. I realised about 15 minutes after I got off the bus. I was on the phone, talking to my mum when I realised. I told her. Very much unlike her, there was a long, long, loooong pause. We were both speechless. Very much unlike us.

I thought getting off was a good idea, until I realised it wasn’t and I stayed.

I stayed, fidgeting around, insanely upset and really annoyed at how my brain was partying in a remote place, a far cry from my head.

Arriving at the lost and found bureau as if I had made an 8-hour-voyage, looking something like this, and – after telling them my fun story and asking them to try and call the driver – being told they couldn’t reach him and also, he might be from the other bus company, so they couldn’t do anything but give me the number of the said company, calling that company and telling them what had happened, just to have an unfriendly voice telling me I had to wait and could call in about 20 minutes, and after calling after 20 minutes being told that “she haaaasn’t reached him yet” in a voice I wouldn’t categorize as “friendly”, did not exactly contribute to the uplift of my mood.

Right, let’s keep it short: They found the bag, I had to go to the other side of Graz to get it and I got it. Thank God. Thanks God.


Three weeks later…

…I am very very excited to tell you about my university, because I absolutely love it. Love love love it. Not only are we in groups of 13 people most of the time, but I am also still impressed by the fact that we are in an elementary school every week. Not only as guests, but in a few weeks also as actual teachers who need to prepare small tasks for the kids. I am thrilled.

Oh, one other thing I am thrilled about is that my second cooking video is finally done and online. It would be great if you could share this really amazing recipe with the world, ang give me feedback.

Here it is. The utimate no-knead bread.

Homemade White Bread

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