Ginger & Hokkaido Pumpkin Baked Rice with Szechuan Pepper
Rice is one of those staples you just cant do without. But there is also almost nothing you can't do with it! You can keep it plain as a side dish, spice it up and fry it Asian style, make risottos and paellas and pilafs... so many cool and wonderful things! And you can also turn it into something yummy and comforting, like this!
This IS actually, basically a pilaf-rice kinda dish, but it is not particularly based on any recipe, and although I used ginger and Szechuan pepper in it, it is not Chinese by any stretch of the imagination. Nope, it is just a simple idea of mine and it was perfectly delicious and light this cold Autumn evening- the lovely Hokkaido pumpkin was a great, seasonal flavor to use! And rather fun used this way too!
I started off by rinsing two cups of rice off and then adding them to my baking dish... may I advertise the fact that I absolutely adore these little oven-proof bowls from Ikea at this point? Basically, I made this dish only because I wanted to use my new bowl! Haha- all kidding aside now, you can use any kind of bowl, ramekin or even a tin to make this.
To the rice I added about 1" of finely chopped ginger, 1 small onion, 1 finely chopped clove of garlic, and about 2 cupfuls of finely diced Hokkaido pumpkin- which I like the best of all because you don't need to peel it- as you all know by now. I seasoned with salt and pepper, added a little sesame oil and then covered the lot with boiling water and popped it into the oven, at 350°F for 5 minutes.
In the meantime, I cut a few more thin slices of pumpkin and sautéed them briefly in a little sesame oil, with a very light sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg, some salt and pepper and a generous sprinkle of ground of Szechuan pepper.
After 5 minutes in the oven, the rice had soaked up all of the water and begun to cook nicely. I fetched it back out of the oven, poured in more water, added a good handful of finely chopped chives. I then laid the half-cooked pumpkin slices decoratively on top, sprinkled them with a little lime juice and sesame oil, covered the rice with some aluminum foil and popped it back into the oven for a further 10 minutes. After that time, the pumpkin had a lovely toasted touch but was steamy and soft inside- just like the rice! Terrific!
I added a generous sprinkle of chives for some extra color and a fresh nuance to the flavor and enjoyed it just as it was, straight from the dish... but maybe 4-5 minutes later, as it was hot, hot, hot! It was not overpowering in flavor, but the ginger and pumpkin retained their character wonderfully and harmoniously and it was just a yummy, Autumn meal! And what more could you want? Sometimes less is just more!
After 10 minutes in the oven, covered in foil, the rice had puffed-up and absorbed all of the water completely and the pumpkin slices were also wonderfully tender. I popped it back into the oven without foil for a further 2-3 minutes under the broiler and when I next saw it, the sesame oil had bubbled-up and become frothy and light and delicious, and the rise itself had of course risen to twice its volume... terrific!