“I love rice!” – is something I hear on a very regular basis from Marlini- hardly a surprise when rice is so core to the Malaysian diet. This is of course unless you are Nazib Razak, the corrupt Prime Minister of Malaysia who recently sparked national outrage by claiming he prefers the hipster fuel of quinoa – non-indigenous to Malaysia (at 23 times the cost to local Malaysian rice). He must be a sound guy though – as Donald Trump – the poster child of moderation, decency, and extreme levels of genius-ness – welcomed Razak with open arms (and small hands) last year to the White House. I am pretty sure though that Trump, famed for exquisite culinary tastes (the McDonald’s Cheeseburger being the regular piece de resistance and a dietary staple for the orange toned and self-proclaimed saviour of the free world) would not go near my Fragrant Spinach Rice. If it isn’t American, is is FAKE NEWS!
Since Marlini came into my life, I have to say that rice has featured significantly more in the dishes I cook – and I have been introduced to some variations I had never even heard of. Following a little research online, I was amazed to discover that more than 40,000 varieties of cultivated rice are said to exist. This gets me thinking that I have a long, long way to go…my cupboard ingredients today only comprise Basmati, Brown Basmati, Long Grain, Carmargue red rice, jasmine, germinated brown rice, and Thai jasmine black rice.
Unlike many Asian countries, I have steered clear of a rice cooker and stick to the old school method I consider to be tried and tested – large saucepan, water, and getting the timing right. Whilst I cannot compete with Marlini’s rice cooker – a state-of-the art Japanese machine which may have had its control panel menu modelled on a Tamagotchi (the sounds at least) – I just try my level-headed best. Unlike me, Marlini is a rice guru – if she says that my paltry efforts waver between ‘ok’ and ‘yum’ – this is a big deal to me ;o) Roll on Masterchef!
Due to time scarcity, it is not uncommon that I cook up a larger than required batch of rice, then use it for other recipes over the course of the week. My Egg Fried Rice with Cashew Nuts, Ginger and Lime recipe is a good and quick recipe to make use of leftover rice, and if you have a little bit more time on your hands, then my Chicken and Prawn Egg Fried Rice is worth a shot for those needed a bit more protein in their diet.
What I was after though was a rice dish which could either complement a number of other main ingredients (I have matched this with fish cakes, fish, eggs and chicken) or can be enjoyed on its own – either hot or cold. I also love spinach, and do not make use of it enough on a regular basis. I found a couple of bags of whole leaf frozen spinach in the back of my freezer, and really wanted to put it to use. Whilst I love plain rice as it is, my intention was to cobble something together to make this element of a meal the primary focus – allowing for the fish or chicken to play second fiddle.
With the idea of the combination of ‘spinach + rice’ in my head, I searched the tinterweb for inspiration and was a little dismayed to see that the majority of recipes entailed cooking rice and spinach at the same time. I was trying to achieve a recipe which was on the drier end of the spectrum, and also packed a punch in the taste department. Ultimately, I wanted the spinach to have a voice of its own (enhanced of course with chilli, shallot, red onion, garlic and lemon zest). The other ingredient which I was only introduced to a few weeks ago (in a Nigella Lawson Turkish Egg recipe) was Aleppo Pepper – since this new discovery I am finding every possible opportunity to incorporate this into my cooking. It takes its name after the long inhabited city of Aleppo along the Silk Road in Syria – to any budding cook out there get it now – it is unlike anything else and so versatile. I found Aleppo Pepper on Amazon (of course) and am rapidly depleting my initial stock.
I think you have endured enough of my ramblings by now – please find (and enjoy) my Fragrant Spinach Rice recipe below.
As a side note- I have made this with both Fresh and Frozen spinach (defrosted first, of course) and actually prefer the texture when originating from the frozen variety. They tend to keep the slightly tougher stalks which all help with the texture.
Fragrant Spinach Rice
- 2 1/2 cups of Brown Basmati Rice rinsed
- 500 g Frozen whole leaf spinach leaves defrosted, and strained *
- 1 medium red onion finely diced
- 2 large Echelon shallots finely diced
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 large garlic cloves peeled and finely sliced
- I red chilli deseeded and finely chopped
- 2 tsp Aleppo Pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- lime cut into wedges to serve optional
- First, bring a large pain of lightly salted water to the boil and add the rinsed brown Basmati rice. Stir occasionally, and cook for 15-25 minutes (rice grains do vary) until cooked and firm. Sieve, and rinse with cold water to get rid of any starch.
- Whilst the rice is cooking, finely slice the red onion, Echelon shallots, garlic cloves, red chilli and peel the lemon with a zester.
- Once the rice is draining, rinse out the pan, return to the hob and heat the olive oil at a medium setting.
- Add the red onion, shallots, red chilli, and lemon zest and gently sweat (until soft) for 4-5 minutes. Tear the spinach leaves into smaller pieces and add to the pan. Stir through, then gradually spoon in the brown Basmati Rice. Mix thoroughly as you keep adding the rice until it is all combined. Add the Aleppo pepper, and drizzle in the light soy sauce and mix thorough.
- Cover the pan and keep warm. Enjoy.
- Serve with lime wedges (optional)
Drain in a size, and then squeeze out of much of the water between your palms. The 500g of frozen spinach will be reduced to the size of a small fist.