Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Afghan Rice Pilaf

I don't really eat red meat anymore.  In case you haven't heard my story, I gave it up originally in 1998 after my mother's breast cancer diagnosis.  It was on the list of foods/substances that came up as carcinogenic when I started exhaustively researching the link between nutrition and health.

Then when I got pregnant with Big A I had insatiable cravings and red meat was back on the table.  This continued, to some extent, between pregnancies, and then during my pregnancy with Little A as well.  But since then, those cravings have completely dissipated.  I would be happy if I never eat it again. 

But the same cannot be said of Adam.  Nevertheless, because of his cholesterol issues that he inherited from his dad, he is supposed to avoid saturated fat as much as possible.  So when I found ground bison at the grocery store, I decided I'd treat him.  It is extremely lean for a red meat and very low in saturated fat.  Besides, I still seem to have low iron, so I figured it can't hurt me either. 

The last time I had red meat was back in April, when Adam and I went to the Afghan restaurant in New York.  Unfortunately, it was a big disappointment compared to the last time we had their food.  The lamb I got was tough and stringy and relatively tasteless.  While I bemoaned the situation, Adam suggested I just try cooking a similar dish myself.  So I did!  Of course, I put my own stamp on it, like I always do.  First off, I used the ground bison.  I also incorporated a lot more veggies into it than is customary.  Usually the rice is simply garnished with fried onions, raisins and shredded carrot.  I added parsnips and cauliflower too.  I also subbed figs in for raisins because I felt like it.

If you don't eat meat, you can easily veganize this recipe by using vegetable broth and chickpeas instead of meat.

Afghan Rice Pilaf

1  tsp coconut oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp coconut sugar
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
1 lb ground lamb, beef or bison (or 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
1 litre beef stock (or veggie stock)
Pinch of saffron
1.5 cups water
1.5 cups brown basmati rice
12 figs, chopped (or 1/2 cup raisins)

Roasted vegetables

1 cauliflower, cut into florets
1 lb parsnips cut into sticks
1 lb carrots, cut into sticks
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls cider vinegar

For the roasted veggies, toss all ingredients together in a large bowl and then spread on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets.  Roast at 425F for 30 minutes.

For the pilaf, sauté onions in oil in a deep skillet until softened.  Add sugar and continue to cook until caramelized.  Remove from skillet.  Brown meat and then add stock and saffron. Simmer for about 5 minutes and then remove meat.  Add water and rice and simmer until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked.  Stir in figs (or raisins) and meat.  Combine with roasted veggies, caramelized onions, and serve.