27 Feb Vegan Rice? Or Is Butter King?
The concept of being a vegetarian, or I’ll raise you one further, a vegan, has always baffled the likes of my mother. She being a very traditional Cypriot Turkish woman, hearty in every fashion, with the Mediterranean sea raging through her veins and a culinary repertoire to challenge the likes of Escoffier.
When prompted once to make rice for a vegan friend, a sudden and deathly silence fell in the room. After what seemed like a lifetime of waiting, mother dear responded, “Ne?” This is a very socio-onomatopoeia’ically informal Turkish word meaning, ‘What’. And if you have any experience of a Cypriot Turkish accent, then you’ll be able to relate to exactly the sound of this ‘Ne’ (think e for elephant and emphasis on both letters), and the confused look on her face that accompanied this very pronounced ‘Ne’. My mother makes the best rice I hasten to add, (as does yours I’m sure) but it’s with butter, a lot of butter. When I explained that vegans don’t do dairy, or anything else related to animals and living beings, she looked confused. Her reply was succinct, “You make her rice, I make my rice.” In other words, no, I only make one type of rice, and if you have a vegan mate, you’re on your own, sorry. Actually, strike the sorry, my mum never apologises for anything.
So there we are, rice, my mum’s rice… with butter.. However, if you are vegan, and I am not at all like my mother, and like to embrace all diet choices, it can be made with olive oil and be equally as tasty and a little healthier too.
This is our Chickpea version, an all time classic, and if you’ve eaten at the many worldwide Turkish restaurants and kebab houses around, then you’ll be entirely familiar with this tasty variation. The chickpeas are great too, as they’re low fat, contain fibre and work well if you’re on a healthy diet.
Mum’s Rice with Chickpeas Recipe
Serves 4 to 6
You will need:
100g butter and a little olive oil – Or just use all olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
350g short grain rice, such as Turkish Baldo rice or risotto/paella rice Arborio – rinsed in cold water a few times to remove any excess starch
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, you could soak dried overnight then boil but hey, who wants to do that when there’s tinned!
About 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Rice is such a simple thing to make once you learn the technique.
Melt the butter and a small drizzle of olive oil, or all the olive oil, in a deep saucepan. (Make sure you have a lid as you’ll need it later). Do this on a low heat so as not to burn the butter or olive oil.
Sweat down the onion then add the chickpeas and the rice. Make sure everything is coated in the buttery/oily mixture.
Pour in enough stock so that is rises above the rice mixture by one tip of your index finger! That’s how my mum measures it however, that’s about 1 inch to you and me!
Turn the heat down to the absolute lowest setting, top with a lid and allow to cook out for about 15 minutes until the water has been completely absorbed.
DON’T BE TEMPTED…. to stir the rice, remove the lid before the water is absorbed or mess about with it otherwise you will break up the grains of rice and it will end up rough and mushy looking!
Once the water is absorbed, turn off the heat, place kitchen paper or a tea towel under the lid and leave it for another 10 minutes or so before serving.
Tip: This rice is great served with any meat or vegetable dish.
In the Summer months, we like to eat it with natural yogurt and even watermelon.