Wednesday 2 February 2011

Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music... Ad Infinitum

I recently fell ill with a cold. It was nothing serious but given the fact that I rarely get sick, it was one of those one-off events that scares you more than they affect you. However, the reason why I remember that my catarrh was of the mild variety was because I did not lose my sense of smell. Usually when you have a cold, your nose blocks up and you're left feeling frustrated about all the odours you can't now enjoy. But, you know, as long as chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi continue to exist, there's no need to fear that your organ of smell will be affected by a cold. Ottolenghi's recipes can unblock the most stubborn of noses.

My wife cooks a version of this dish at home and the aroma coming from the pan is just as delicious as the one you'll get when you knock this up next time it's your turn in the kitchen.

Basmati and wild rice with chickpeas, currants and herbs

50g wild rice
2 tbsp olive oil
220g basmati rice
Salt and black pepper
330ml boiling water
2 tsp cumin seeds
1½ tsp curry powder
240g cooked chickpeas (tinned are fine), drained
180ml sunflower oil
1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
½ tbsp plain flour
100g currants
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp chopped dill

Put the wild rice in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 40 minutes, until cooked but still quite firm. Drain and set aside.

To cook the basmati rice, pour a teaspoon of olive oil into a medium saucepan and place on high heat. Add the rice and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and stir as it warms up. Add the boiling water, reduce the heat to minimum, cover with a tight lid and leave for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, lift off the lid, cover the pot with a tea towel, then put the lid on top and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the chickpeas. Heat the remaining olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the cumin and curry powder, and after a couple of seconds add the chickpeas and a quarter-teaspoon of salt; act fast, or the spices may burn. Stir for a minute or two, just to heat the chickpeas, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Wipe the pan clean, add the sunflower oil and place on a high heat. Once the oil is hot, mix the onion and flour with your hands. Take some of the mix and carefully place in the oil. Fry for two or three minutes, until golden-brown, transfer to kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt. Repeat in batches until all the onion is fried.

Finally, add both types of rice to the chickpea bowl, along with the currants, herbs and fried onion. Stir and season to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

For a recipe that has 'wild' in its name, there can only be equally untamed music to match it. That's why my first musical choice is a bluesy, Brazilian song that makes me jump out of pure joy whenever I think of the combination of black pepper, cumin seeds and curry powder. Hmmm... spicy.

This is one of those foot-tapping tracks. I love it especially when I walk to work and it comes on my mp3 player. And now I love it even more, when I think of that basmati rice cooking slowly on the hot hob. And yes, that's Damon Albarn on guitar. Rhythmic.

Last track tonight comes from someone who never ceases to amaze me. Fatboy Slim is one of those DJs whom the word 'versatility' defines pretty well. This is a groovy, funky tune that brings to mind the scent of parsley and chopped coriander. Beat that Mr Flu! Be aware that there's some mild swearing halfway through the song, although I think it's bleeped. Tasty.

Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi in London.

Photograph: Colin Campbell for the Guardian

© 2011

Next Post: ‘Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music’, to be published on 6th February at 10am (GMT)


  1. Thank you for the recipe, Cuban.

    I hope food, music, and rest have driven out the cold.

    Warm regards from South Beach

  2. All wonderful, Cuban -- the music, the food, etc. I'm sorry you've been ill and hope you're feeling better soon. I do love that you used the word "catarrh," though - that's one of those wonderful words that Americans rarely use.

  3. Thanks for the recipe and the wonderful music. I hope you feel better very soon.

  4. Aaaahhh, somebody else who likes chickpeas! They are my favourite legume (are they legumes, in fact??) and I'd have them multiple times in a week if my partner would agree.
    Looks like a terrific recipe, Cuban, just up my alley. We cook a lot with spice and I shall be adding this to my list, thank you!

    Enjoying all the music, btw. You have such eclectic tastes. (I didn't discover Fatboy Slim until a few years ago and like his stuff a lot.)

  5. Well, would you believe it? I'm in my lunch hour and just had a stir-fry which I cooked the other night, so, my belly's full and my heart's happy! :-)

    That cold was over Christmas and luckily it didn't affect me that much. Deborah, I adooooore chickpeas! :-)

    Many thanks to everyone for your feedback.

    Greetings from London.

  6. great comfort food and great music to match - greetings from Mexico

  7. Mmm, just reading that recipe is making me hungry. I do love cooking with pulses.

  8. Oh that recipe sounds so good, Cuban! I haven't had any rice in over a week. I'll have to try this one out.


  9. This dish sounds very Indian, so all you need to do is come to chez Tayabali for dinner :) Rice and chickpeas, cumin and coriander aplenty!!



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