Iraqi Biryani

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Name and pronunciation: البرياني [biryani]
Description: our favourite vegetarian version of Iraqi biryani
Type of cuisine: Arabic

Iraqi biryani is the first dish my husband cooked for me and it is sill one of my favourite tastes. It differs from the original, Indian version. It has much more rich and complex flavours and textures. There are many different ways to make biryani and we make it vegetarian, but you can opt to add some meat as well.

Approximately 4-6 people • Cooking time: about 60 minutes

Tips:

01
All ingredients are quick and easy, but need to be prepared separately, so it is better to be organised and have everything ready in advance

02
Feel free to use the same oil to fry all the ingredients. You will need a little more oil than usually. It is not exactly deep-frying, but you need about ½ good quality olive oil. Use a draining spoon to remove one type of ingredient, before adding another one.

Ingredients:

medium potato
1-2 medium carrots
1 medium onion
½ cauliflower
2 cups rice (best to use basmati variety)
cup vermicelli
2 cups frozen green peas
1-2 handfuls raisins
1-2 handfuls almonds or other nuts
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1½ tablespoons cardamom
1½ tablespoons sumac
1 tablespoon salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon black pepper

Method:

01
Cut the cauliflower into very small pieces and cook until a little soft. Drain and set aside.

02
Peel and chop the potato, carrot and onions into cubes. Heat up the oil and fry them separately until slightly brown and delicately crispy on the outside. Drain excessive oil using kitchen paper and set aside in one dish.

03
Now, it is time to toast the nuts and raisins. Nuts only need a minute until they are golden and very aromatic. Raisins may need a little longer, but be careful not to fry them for too long as they become hard. When first raisins get pumped and start looking like grapes again, it is time to stop. Drain and set aside.

04
Thew the green peas with boiling water. You do not have to cook it, it is enough to let it sit in hot water for about 10 minutes and drain.

05
Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat up a generous portion of good olive oil, add dry vermicelli and all the spices. Fry until the pasta turns slightly golden, for approximately a minute or two. Add dry rice, and fry everything together for another 5 minutes.

06
Bring about 5 cups of water to boil in a kettle and pour over fried vermicelli and rice. Cover it (not completely) and simmer until the rice is soft and almost all water is gone. It should take about 10 minutes. Then turn off the heat, cover completely and let sit for about 5 more minutes, until the rice is perfect.

07
Stir the rice with vermicelli and add all vegetables, raisins and nuts. Stir everything thoroughly and serve with thick natural yogurt.

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Enjoy!

Polish Sour Cream

Name and pronunciation: śmietana [sh-me-eh-tah-nah]
Description: sour cream
Typo of cuisine: Eastern European

In Polish cuisine, sour cream is so important. It is not often used as an actual ingredient, but it is not a mere garnish either! There are some dishes that are just not finished without sour cream. In fact, if you ask for “cream” in Poland, you will get sour cream as a default.

Uses:

Different sorts of dumplings (pierogi, leniwe, kopytka, etc.), potatoes (young, boiled potatoes, potato pancakes, etc.), soups, sauces and salads instead of greek yoghurt.

Tips:

01
In Polish, śmietana means sour cream, but by śmietanka (“little cream”) we mean crème fraîche.

02
Buy Polish sour cream if you can. I always look for local replacements when it comes to cooking abroad, but Polish sour cream really is different. First of all, we have a choice of fat content, but the most popular ones are 12% and 18%, which is rather uncommon in Luxembourg. Also, it is slightly more sour and creamier than the Luxembourgish counterpart.

03
If you do not have an access to a Polish shop, do not fret. Try to source a local version of sour cream and adjust it. In Luxembourg, you can buy a version with 30% fat content, so you will need to dilute it with yoghurt (“Fjord” is the absolute best since it already has a consistency and flavour similar to Polish sour cream) or a dash of milk, until it has a consistency of very smooth, thick greek yoghurt. If it feels a little too sweet, you can add few drops of lemon juice.

Enjoy!