Sunday, 12 July 2015

Smoked haddock pilaf

A pilaf is something that I turn to often. When I've had a long day at work, or arrived home after a few days of hotel food and want something comforting, a pilaf is a quick and easy option. Once you have done the preparation, it looks after itself leaving me to unpack, have a shower, etc before dinner. Sometimes I use quorn chunks when I want a vegetarian alternative, but more often or not, it tends to be smoked haddock.

You can vary the recipe considerably. Nigella Lawson has a wonderful version containing chicken and nuts in her Nigella Summer book. Some people like to put hard boiled eggs into theirs, but that makes it more of a kedgeree. And you can vary the herbs too, if I have enough chives hanging about in the garden I tend to snip those in. If not then if I have some parsley or coriander in the fridge then that is what I'll use.

Now I'm not a keen egg eater. I use them in baking and general cooking of course, but generally it is a rare occasion when I will tuck into a fried egg or omlette. However my husband is partial to a soft poached egg, so I tend to add one to the top of the dish so that he can tear it open and allow the runny yolk to sink into the rice. If you wanted to do so, you could poach the eggs in advance, shock in cold water and then reheat on top of the dish during its' resting time.

My version is below. I hope you will give it a go and maybe even enjoy it. It's easy enough to scale up for more people, all you need is a bigger casserole dish.

For two people:

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of garam masala
125 grams of basmati rice
1 bay leaf
Zest of half an unwaxed lemon, peeled
1 green chilli finely chopped, or quarter of a teaspoon of chilli flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
190ml of chicken or vegetable stock
250grams of smoked haddock, preferably undyed and skin on
half of a small bunch of spring onions, finely sliced, using all of the white parts and as much of the green as possible
1 tablespoon of chopped herbs of your choice - it could be chives, parsley or coriander
Lemon juice, to serve
1 soft poached egg per person

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4

Start by heating the oil in a casserole dish. When the oil is warm, add the garam masala and gently cook for a couple of minutes. Add the rice and stir to ensure that all the grains are coated in the mixture.

Add bay leaf, lemon zest and chilli followed by the stock. Bring to a simmer and place the fish on top. You may need to cut the fish into pieces to fit in one layer. Push the fish into the stock, place a lid on a put in the oven for anywhere between 15 to 20 minutes. I tend to check after 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to stand, with the lid on for five minutes.

Take off the lid, skin the fish and break up into flakes. Gently stir in the spring onions, herbs and fish with a fork. What you do is ensure that the grains of rice remain separate. Place a clean tea towel over the dish, replace the lid and leave for another five minutes. This ensures that any excess moisture is absorbed and you are left with fluffy rice.

While the rice is resting bring a pan of water to a simmer. Add a drop of vinegar, stir with a fork to create a swirling motion and drop the eggs in, one at a time. When poached to your liking remove and drain.

Serve the pilaf in warm bowls and squeeze over some lemon juice. Top with the poached egg and serve.

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