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A Few of my Favourite Things

Raindrops on roses are nice, and bright copper kettles certainly would come in handy. I wouldn't say no to warm woollen mittens if the occasion called for it. But I draw the line when it comes to whiskers on kittens.

"Pine nuts and ginger with asafetida,

Basmati rice is made all the more sweeter,

Currants and cloves they add all the right zings!

These are a few of my favourite things.."

(apologies to Julie Andrews).

When it comes to recipes, this is one of my favourites.

amazing rice:

Turkish Rice Pilaf with Thyme, Currants & Pine Nuts

Pine nuts are the kernels or seeds that are shed as the pine cones dry, open out and mature in the summer months. These little cream coloured nuts can be toasted lightly in a dry frying pan, or with a little olive oil, to release a deeper, nuttier flavour. Coupled with flavoursome cloves, orange, ginger, thyme and succulent currants, they add a tasty crunch to this exotic rice dish from Turkey. Serves 6 persons.

3 cups vegetable stock or water,

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil,

½ cup pine nuts,

½ teaspoon yellow asafetida powder,

1½ cups basmati rice,

4 whole cloves,

one 2.5 cm cube ginger, sliced,

2 bay leaves,

2 whole stalks fresh thyme,

three large strips orange zest (I use a peeler and take off half the orange peel in large thin strips of zest, avoiding the bitter white part just below the skin),

1½ teaspoons salt,

½ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper,

1/3 cup currants,

3 tablespoons chopped continental parsley.

Heat the vegetable stock in a small saucepan over moderate heat, cover, and bring to the boil.

Warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan over low to moderate heat. When slightly hot, add the pine nuts. Stir-fry them for a minute, or until they turn a light golden-brown and smell fragrant. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Quickly remove the nuts from the oil and drain them on paper towels with a slotted spoon.

Sprinkle the yellow asafetida powder into the hot oil. Stir momentarily, drop in the rice, and stir-fry it in the oil for 2 or 3 minutes or until the rice grains become a little whitish in colour.

Pour the boiling stock into the rice. Add the cloves, ginger, bay leaves, thyme stalks, orange zest, salt and pepper. Raise the heat to high, and bring the rice to full boil. Immediately reduce the heat to very low, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and gently simmer, without stirring, for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the rice is tender and fluffy.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, allowing the delicate rice grains to firm up for 5 minutes. Lift the lid and carefully extract the cloves, thyme stalks, ginger and bay leaves. Finally, fold in the currants, nuts and continental parsley and serve the rice hot.