Friday, 17 January 2014

Steam Powered Supper

Zucchine Tonde al Forno con Riso e Verdure
Baked Round Zucchini & Vegetable Rice Pilau

To those of you that think that the age of steam is a thing of the past- you may well be right! But only by around 3 hrs! Because it was exactly that- steam, that did the job whilst I was preparing my supper this evening. Although the dish was "baked" in the oven, the rice and the zucchini cooked in foil- which kept all of the 
steam, heat, aroma and fragrance trapped and made the rice and zucchini steam to perfection whilst maintaining all of the flavors of the other ingredients wonderfully. And yes- I think that is a pretty wonderful thing!

This was one of those dishes that took a little chopping and stirring at the begin, but which took care of itself in the oven in 20 minutes, whilst I could take care of other more important things... like doing nothing, putting my feet up and having a well-earned rest after a long hard day! 

There was very little work and there were very few ingredients involved in preparing this and yet it was filled with flavor and totally yummy this cold January evening. To make this nice, single serving, I needed 1 small round zucchini, 1 shallot, a half of a carrot, a half stick of celery, 1 small parsnip and a little parsley. Simple!

I started off by finely chopping the shallot, carrot and celery into fine dice and popping it into a saucepan with a little olive oil. I then stir-fried it for 1-2 minutes and added the finely diced parsnip, a little crushed garlic    
and just enough water to cover everything. I turned the heat down to a gentle simmer, turned the oven on to get it nice and ready for baking and grabbed my serving dish to start putting this little baby together with no further ado... 

I cut the zucchini in half and using a tablespoon, scooped out the center, which I cut into a fine dice. I added the diced zucchini to the other ingredients and added 2 handfuls of Basmati rice, a drizzle of sesame oil and salt, pepper and a good pinch of finely chopped parsley and little squeeze of Anchovy paste which is optional if you want to stay completely Vegetarian with this... but I just love the combination with zucchini as it makes for a lovely, slightly more complex seasoning.

I added enough of the rice mixture to the hollowed-out zucchini to fill them, without pressing it down and then spooned the rest of the mixture into a baking dish. I placed the 2 halves of the zucchini on top of the rice and then poured boiling water gently on top of both the 2 halves and also the contents of the dish, just enough to make sure everything was nicely moistened... just stop when it looks like the rice is going to flow out of the zucchini and also when the rice in the bottom of the dish is just covered. 

I placed the baking dish on top of a piece of foil that was large enough for me to fold the ends together whilst leaving a good couple of inches space above the surface to allow for the rice to fluff-up and rise, sealed it into a parcel and then placed said parcel onto the middle shelf in my pre-heated oven to bake for 15-20 minutes at 250-300°F.

After around 15 minutes, the rice was already "done" to all extents and purposes, so I opened the foil, added a light drizzle of sesame oil, a sprinkle of smoked paprika flakes and a little freshly ground pepper, before returning it for the last few minutes without foil, so that the rice could get ever-so-slightly crunchy on top... yum, yum, yum!

This of course is a very "plain" seasoning, but that suited my mood just fine this evening. It would be wonderful with added spices... curry maybe, or a little tomato paste, something Arabian like Ras al Hanout or even Chinese 5-spice powder... the important thing is that it all steams together, that the zucchini cooks at the same time and that the rice comes out light and fluffy... but most of all that it is easy to make, pretty to look at, tasty to eat and that you have FUN! So I hope that you do just that! Buon appetito!

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