Friday, May 18, 2012

Roz bil halib

Arabic style rice pudding!

     Traditional Arabic rice puddings are usually plain and simple.  Cinnamon, rose water, orange zest, raisons and sugar flavors the basmati rice.  Green pistachios are usually the signature garnish.
     Just like any other Arabic recipe, Arabic chefs tend to adjust or add flavors to rice pudding to create their own signature touch!  I have mentioned in previous blog entries, that middle eastern spice mixes are customized by chefs and many of the spice mix recipes are ancient closely guarded secret family recipes.  
     Za'atar spice mix is a prime example.  Egyptian za'atar has a high proportion of coarsely crushed toasted sesame and wild thyme.  The choice of the smaller amounts of the other spices and their proportions is what gives each za'atar spice mix recipe its own individual character.
     Keftah or Kafta spice mix is another good example of how a spice mix is customized by middle eastern chefs.  Each chef modifies the keftah spice mix to suit the recipe that they are creating.  Keftah spice mix is used to season meatballs, minced meat kebabs, gyro meatloaf, kibbeh and several other meat recipes.  A good kefteh spice mix can also be a closely guarded secret!
     I have mentioned in past blog entries that my step grandfather was Syrian Lebanese.  I learned the flavors and cooking techniques of Arabic Persian food at an early age.  My Syrian Lebanese step grandfather's Arabic rice pudding was not exactly a standard Arabic rice pudding recipe.  There were many items that he added to his great tasting customized Arabic rice pudding recipe.  When asked how the rice pudding was made, the answer was always "Its a secret recipe!"  I will probably never figure out his rice pudding recipe and out of respect, I certainly will not try to imitate his recipe.
     Well, today I created my own customized Arabic rice pudding recipe.  I added a nice blend of flavors and kept the flavors delicate by using only small amounts of spices and seasonings.  This rice pudding is not overly sweet and goats milk yogurt adds a zesty tangy balance of flavor.  Almonds garnish the rice pudding instead of pistachios.  Dried black currants and dried cherries were the choice of fruits.  This turned out to be a nice tasting Arabic style rice pudding and my recipe is not a closely guarded secret!
     Plain Basmati Rice For Arabic Rice Pudding:
     This recipe makes 1 large portions or 2 petite portions!
     Leftover plain basmati rice is good for making rice pudding.  I never have leftovers, because I cook individual portions per meal.  I actually had to cook basmati rice and leave it in the refrigerator overnight, so the rice would stale and starch.  Starchy leftover basmati rice is much easier to cook to a porridge or rice pudding consistency.
     Soak 1/2 cup of basmati rice in cold water for 2 hours.
     Rinse the basmati rice 7 times, till the water turns clear, when it is drained from the rice.
     Place the soaked basmati rice in a sauce pot.
     Add 1 cups of water.
     Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Cook the rice for about 10 to 14 minutes.
     Take the pot off of the heat.
     The basmati should be a little more done than al dente at this point.
     Pour off any excess water if there is any in the pot.
     Allow the rice to cool.
     Refrigerate the plain basmati rice overnight in a refrigerator, so it becomes starchy.

     Roz bil halib Recipe:
     Place the pre-cooked "leftover" basmati rice into a sauce pot.
     Add 1/2 cup of milk.
     Add 2 ounces of goats milk yogurt.
     Add 3 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 small pinch of cardamom.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Add 1 small pinch of saffron.
     Add 1 pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 2 pinches of fenugreek.
     Add 1 small pinch of dried mint.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 6 to 8 dried cherries.
     Add 2 tablespoons of dried black currants.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of honey.
     Add enough water, so that the rice is barely covered by the liquid.
     Place the sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Gently simmer the rice.
     Add a splash of water occasionally if necessary.
     Simmer till the rice becomes very soft and till the flavors meld.
     Whisk the soft rice mixture, so the soft rice mashes and becomes a porridge or pudding.
     The rice pudding should be a heavy thick consistency, but it should not be dry.  Add a splash of milk, if it becomes too thick.
     Add these ingredients last to finish the rice pudding:
     - 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of rose water
     - 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
     Keep the Roz bil halib warm over very low heat.

     Toasted Almond Garnish:
     Heat a small saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of sliced almond.
     Stir and toss the almonds in the hot butter, till they become lightly toasted.
     Place the almonds on a dish, so they cook no further.

     Roz bil halib Presentation:
     Place a serving of the warm Arabic style rice pudding in a souffle dish or a parfait glass.
     Place the toasted almonds on top.
     Serve the rice pudding warm!

     This is a very nice tasting Arabic rice pudding!  The balance of flavors is delicate and not over powering.  The rosewater and lemon add crisp bright finishing flavors.  This is not a standard Arabic rice pudding recipe.  This roz bil halib is customized!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

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