Mexican Rice

Serves 4 – 8

Mexican Rice is a staple in Mexican cuisine that it’s served as a side with many main dishes.  This version can be personalized with the vegetables of your choice.  I’m using corn and tomatoes to achieve an authentic Mexican taste, but you can also add fresh or frozen carrots, peas, peppers and mushrooms to serve as a complete meal.   The turmeric and tomato sauce combined add a great, rich colour, which is a visual treat that will whet the appetite.  This makes a great addition to tacos and burritos or even rolled up in a taquito alongside cooked chicken.  This Mexican Rice isn’t just for accompanying Mexican dishes, but can be used to jazz up basic baked chicken and steamed broccoli or an already flavourful roast!  Let’s get started.

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Mexican Rice – Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup kernel corn (canned is fine, thoroughly rinse in cold water prior to cooking)
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed in cold water a few times to remove starch
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • 6 – 8 slices of pickled jalapeno, drained and chopped (optional)
  • 2 cups chicken broth, hot (substitute 2 cups water, hot, and 1 bouillon cube or 1 tsp. chicken broth powder)
  • ½ tsp. ground dry red chili
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 pinch turmeric
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 green onion, green part sliced thin
  • 1 Tbsp. coriander, chopped fine

Instructions

  1. Heat butter in a large, heavy bottom, non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion and sauté until onions are soft, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Stir in rice and sauté until toasted, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add corn, pickled jalapenos, ground dry red chili, ground cumin and turmeric.
  4. Add tomato sauce and chicken broth (or water and 1 bouillon cube or 1 tsp. chicken broth powder).
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste, stir until well combined, and cook covered over medium heat for 15 -20 minutes or until liquids are evaporated and rice is fluffy. Turn off stove.
  6. Add tomato and green onion, stir through, and let rice rest for about 5 minutes prior to serving.

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Serve garnished with finely chopped coriander.  This Mexican Rice can be served as a side or even as a main dish for the family.  It’s so flavorful and delicious that they won’t miss the meat.

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Chicken Biryani – The Best

Serves 6

Happy Canada Day!  What better way to celebrate Canada’s diversity than with an amazing dish that many Canadians have embraced as their own:  chicken biryani.

Chicken biryani is one of the most recognized dishes from India and it has a long history that’s as complex as its flavour.  Originally the biryani was brought to India by the Moguls and was dish enjoyed primarily by the royal court.  Even though it started off as a mild dish it soon became imbued with the addition of Indian spices, which sparked the evolution of many regional variants of biryani.

Its complex flavours and aromas have inspired entire books and many restaurants are dedicated solely to serving an array of biryanis.  Often, people look at the long list of ingredients that accompanies any authentic chicken biryani dish and are either intimidated away or turn away because they don’t have a fully stocked Indian pantry.  White a good biryani requires quality ingredients, time and a careful observance of the instructions it doesn’t have to be intimidating or frustrating.  What to remember is that many of the ingredients are repetitive as they’re listed separately by process and when looked at together on a shopping list it’s not that many.  Many ingredients can also be substituted and I will list acceptable substitution options right next to the ingredients to make it easier and less expensive.  However, there are certain ingredients that are a must such as a good quality biryani masala or garam masala (freshly ground preferably or at least ground with in last couple of months), whole spices, ghee, coriander and basmati rice.  These are what give chicken biryani its distinctive flavour, aroma and taste.  The ingredients are broken down into separate procedures to make it easy to follow.  The pictorial guide is divided by time frame as well as procedures so you can follow it along in chronological order.  Let’s get started.

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Chicken Biryani – Recipe

Ingredients

For the Marinade

  • 10 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 ½” piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 -2 green chilies, roughly chopped (substitute red chilies or ½ tsp. ground dry red chilies)
  • 1 Tbsp. ground dry red chilies (substitute 1 tsp. of a spicier ground chili pepper)
  • 1 Tbsp. ground coriander
  • ½ tsp. turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp. biryani masala (see below or substitute with good quality garam masala)
  • ½ lime, juiced (substitute equivalent amount of lemon)
  • 4 Tbsp. plain yogurt, heaped (any type works)
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 6 – 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cleaned, fat trimmed, cut in half and patted dry (can use chicken breast of a combination of chicken breast and chicken thigh, but keep the pieces fairly large)

For the Biryani masala (makes 5 Tbsp.)

  • Grind together : 1 cinnamon stick, 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds, ½ tsp. fennel seeds, 10 cardamom pods, 6 cloves, 10 pepper corns, Small piece of lichen (optional), 1 casing of mace (optional), ½ nutmeg (optional)

For the Fried Onions

  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced thin
  • Salt, to taste

For the Chicken Tikka Curry

  • ½ the fried onions
  • ½ the marinade puree
  • ¼ cup milk (any type works)
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste, heaped (substitute ½ cup tomato puree, but will take longer to cook)
  • Chicken tikka pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. coriander, thick stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. mint leaves, stems discarded and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp. ground dry red chilies (optional)
  • ½ tsp. ground coriander (optional)
  • Salt, to taste

For the Rice

  • 3 cups Basmati rice, washed and soaked in water for 1 hour
  • 1 small stick cinnamon
  • 6 cardamom pods, cracked opened
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 Tbsp. oil (or margarine)
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 10 cups water

For Assembling (divide each in three)

  • 1/2 the fried onions
  • ½ cup coriander, thick stems removed and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup mint leaves, stems discarded and roughly chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. ghee
  • Few strands saffron in 3 Tbsp. milk, warmed in the microwave for a few seconds
  • Few Drops red food colour (optional)
  • Cooked rice
  • Chicken tikka curry (divide in two)

Instructions

  1. Puree all ingredients in the marinade section (except the salt and chicken) in a blender or food processor until completely smooth.
  2. In a large, nonporous dish add the chicken and salt and toss until chicken is well coated.
  3. Add half the puree to the chicken and mix well until all the chicken pieces are well coated in the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  4. Cover the rest of the marinade and refrigerate until ready to cook biryani.
  5. When chicken is marinated, wash and soak the Basmati rice for one hour.  At this point, also take the marinated chicken and the reserved puree out of the fridge and leave it to come to room temperature.
  6. Set oven on the ‘broil’ setting.  This could be anywhere from 500 – 550 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the oven.  Arrange the chicken pieces on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and broil until chicken is almost cooked and starts to brown, about 15 minutes.
  7. Turn off oven, remove and let cool while you start cooking the rice and curry.
  8. Heat oil in a heavy-bottom, non-stick pan over medium-high heat, add thinly sliced onions and salt and fry until golden brown.  Remove half and drain on a paper towel and set aside.
  9. At the same time, add all ingredients in the rice section (except the rice) in a large pot, cover and bring to a boil.
  10. Once the water comes to a boil (should be about the same time you finish cooking the onions) taste the water to make sure it’s seasoned properly and then add in the rice.  Bring temperature to medium and cook rice until 75% done, about 8 – 10 minutes.  Drain and set rice aside.
  11. While the rice is cooking make the curry.  Bring the pan with the remaining onions to medium-low heat and add the reserved puree and milk and mix together.
  12. Once heated through add the tomato paste, mix well and bring to a simmer.
  13. Add the chicken pieces, coriander, mint leaves, water and continue to simmer until curry starts to thicken and chicken is cooked through.
  14. Taste test for seasoning and spices; I add more ground dry red chilies, ground coriander and salt to taste.  Continue to simmer until most of the moisture is evaporated, oil is released from the chicken and you are left with a nice thick sauce, 5 minutes.  Turn stove off and set aside.
  15. To assemble and cook biryani, set a heavy-bottom pot on top of flat crepe pan or tawa and place over low heat.  This will prevent bottom layer from burning.
  16. Add a third of the rice into the pot and spread out evenly.  Sprinkle with a third of coriander, mint leaves, saffron milk, ghee and food colouring (if using).  Add half the chicken tikka curry on top and spread out evenly.  This is layer one.  Repeat this process twice more (once more for the chicken) until all ingredients are layered.
  17. Cover this pot tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil (use oven gloves if the pot is hot) and place a tight fitting lid or flat plate with anything heavy to weigh it down on top.  This will prevent the steam from escaping.
  18. Cook for 10 minutes or until rice is completely cooked through.  Carefully remove the aluminum foil to let the steam escape, test rice for doneness and gently mix so some of the gravy from the chicken tikka curry coats the rice.  You should have three to four different colours of rice at this point: yellow (from the saffron milk), reddish orange (from the chicken tikka curry), white (from the uncoated rice) and small areas of red (from the food colouring – if using).

For the Marinade and Biryani masala

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  1. Puree all ingredients in the marinade section (except the salt and chicken) in a blender or food processor until completely smooth.
  2. In a large, nonporous dish add the chicken and salt and toss until chicken is well coated.
  3. Add half the puree to the chicken and mix well until all the chicken pieces are well coated in the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  4. Cover the rest of the marinade and refrigerate until ready to cook biryani.

Prep – Soak Rice and Broil Chicken

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  1. When chicken is marinated, wash and soak the Basmati rice for one hour.  At this point, also take the marinated chicken and the reserved puree out of the fridge and leave it to come to room temperature.
  2. Set oven on the ‘broil’ setting.  This could be anywhere from 500 – 550 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the oven.  Arrange the chicken pieces on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and broil until chicken is almost cooked and starts to brown, about 15 minutes.
  3. Turn off oven, remove and let cool while you start cooking the rice and curry.

Fry Onions and Boil Water

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  1. Heat oil in a heavy-bottom, non-stick pan over medium-high heat, add thinly sliced onions and salt and fry until golden brown.  Remove half and drain on a paper towel and set aside.
  2. At the same time, add all ingredients in the rice section (except the rice) in a large pot, cover and bring to a boil.
  3. Once the water comes to a boil (should be about the same time you finish cooking the onions) taste the water to make sure it’s seasoned properly and then add in the rice.  Bring temperature to medium and cook rice until 75% done, about 8 – 10 minutes.  Drain and set rice aside.

For the Chicken Tikka Curry

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  1. While the rice is cooking make the curry.  Bring the pan with the remaining onions to medium-low heat and add the reserved puree and milk and mix together.
  2. Once heated through add the tomato paste, mix well and bring to a simmer.
  3. Add the chicken pieces and water.

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  1. Add coriander, mint leaves, water and continue to simmer until curry starts to thicken and chicken is cooked through.
  2. Taste test for seasoning and spices; I add more ground dry red chilies, ground coriander and salt to taste.  Continue to simmer until most of the moisture is evaporated, oil is released from the chicken and you are left with a nice thick sauce, 5 minutes.  Turn stove off and set aside.

For Assembling

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  1. To assemble and cook biryani, set a heavy-bottom pot on top of flat crepe pan or tawa and place over low heat.  This will prevent bottom layer from burning.
  2. Add a third of the rice into the pot and spread out evenly.  Sprinkle with a third of coriander, mint leaves, saffron milk, ghee and food colouring (if using).  Add half the chicken tikka curry on top and spread out evenly.  This is layer one.  Repeat this process twice more (once more for the chicken) until all ingredients are layered.
  3. Cover this pot tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil (use oven gloves if the pot is hot) and place a tight fitting lid or flat plate with anything heavy to weigh it down on top.  This will prevent the steam from escaping.
  4. Cook for 10 minutes or until rice is completely cooked through.  Carefully remove the aluminum foil to let the steam escape, test rice for doneness and gently mix so some of the gravy from the chicken tikka curry coats the rice.  You should have three to four different colours of rice at this point: yellow (from the saffron milk), reddish orange (from the chicken tikka curry), white (from the uncoated rice) and small areas of red (from the food colouring – if using).

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To serve, carefully remove chicken biryani to a large serving dish.  You can sprinkle with coriander and/or mint leaves to garnish and serve with a simple yogurt raita (recipe follows) and mango lassi.  Although the biryani is not very spicy, the raita and lassi will help cleanse the palate so you can enjoy every bite of the chicken biryani.  As soon as you remove the aluminum foil to release the steam you’ll smell the wonderfully tempting aromas of the chicken biryani.  The coriander, mint, biryani masala, whole spices, the chicken tikka and saffron will each compete to greet your nostrils.  This is definitely a dish you first enjoy with your sense of smell.  Then the flavours just explode in your mouth as soon as you take a bite.  A good chicken biryani should be a feast for the senses and by following this recipe and the pictorial guide you can make a perfect chicken biryani every time.

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Yogurt Raita (combine)

  • 1 cup yogurt, 2 Tbsp. coriander (roughly chopped), 2 Tbsp. mint leaves (roughly chopped), Salt to taste, ½ lime (juiced).

Kimchi Fried Rice – Korean Kimchi Bokkeumbap

Serves 2

This is one of my favourite fried rice recipes because it’s so flavourful and filling and with only just a few ingredients.  Most of you probably know kimchi as a condiment often served at Korean restaurants, but it’s actually so much more than that and is used in a variety of Korean dishes to add falvour and a distinctive taste as well.  This fried rice can be made very simple to be served as a side or can be enhanced with meat, seafood and vegetables to be served as a one-pot-meal on its own.  You can customize it further by adjusting the amount of gochujang paste (Korean red pepper paste) according to how spicy you like it.  It’s also a great way to use up leftover rice and other ingredients you have in your fridge.  It’s so versatile and easy to make it’ll become part of your weekly dinner menu!  Let’s get started.

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Kimchi Fried Rice – Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked, day old white rice, clumps removed
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame or sesame chili oil
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin and whites separated from greens
  • 1 cup kimchi, finely chopped and juice reserved
  • 2 -3 Tbsp. gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
  • 1 cup of meat, seafood, vegetables of your choice (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce (optional)
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
  • 2 eggs, fried (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Add sesame or sesame chili oil to rice, combine until rice is well coated and set aside.
  2. Heat vegetable oil over medium-high in a large, heavy bottom non-stick pan or wok and add 1 Tbsp. of gochujang paste and stir-fry until aromatic, 1 minute.  Add meat or seafood at this point, if using, and stir fry until meat starts to turn opaque, 2 minutes.
  3. Add the white parts of the green onions and vegetables, if using,  and stir-fry one minute and then quickly add the kimchi (reserve juice for later) and continue to stir-fry until kimchi starts to wilt, meat is cooked through and vegetables are tender, 3 -5 minutes depending on your ingredients.
  4. Turn heat to high, add rice and reserved kimchi juice and stir-fry until everything is well combined.
  5. Add rest of the gochujang paste and stir-fry until rice starts to toast.  Taste test and add soy sauce if dish is not salted properly.  There is salt in the kimchi and the gochujang paste and depending on the brands used you may or may not need the soy sauce.  Turn off heat.

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To serve, divide between two plates and top with the green parts of the green onions, fried eggs and sesame seeds.   Enjoy with more gochujang paste and sesame or sesame chili oil if desired.  If you like fried rice you can also check out the Thai Fried Rice recipe.

Thai Fried Rice with Chicken and Shrimp

Serves 4

This dish is one of my favourites to order at Thai restaurants.  It’s so flavourful and fragrant that you definitely end up enjoying it with all your senses.  It’s got the right amount of spice, a little bit of zing, a dash of sweet and a whole lot of deliciousness!  I’ve broken down the various steps involved in this dish into a picture tutorial to make following the recipe even easier.  Let’s get started.

Thai Fried Rice

Thai Fried Rice – Recipe

Ingredients

For Stir Frying:

  • 2 Tbsp. sesame chili oil, divided (substitute with canola oil)
  • 4 green onions, sliced thin and white parts separated from the green parts
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 small red chilies, sliced thin (or to taste)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin with the grain
  • 1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 10 large shrimp, tail on and cleaned
  • ½ cups peas
  • ½ cup carrots, chopped (you can also add other vegetables like green or red peppers, broccoli)
  • 4 cups cooked white rice, a couple of days old and cold is best
  • ½ Tbsp. mild curry powder (substitute 1 tsp. turmeric if you do not have)
  • 3 eggs

For Sauce: 

  • 2 Tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. sugar

Instructions

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  1. Combine sauce ingredients, set aside.
  2. Place a large non-stick pan or wok over medium-high and add 1 Tbsp. sesame chili oil, add white parts of green onions, garlic and red chilies and stir fry, 1 minute.
  3. Add chicken and light soy sauce and stir fry until chicken is almost cooked through.
  4. Add shrimp and continue to stir fry until cooked through.
  5. Add vegetables and stir fry, 1 minute.
  6. Add the rest of the sesame chili oil to the rice and combine until rice grains are separated and coated in oil. Add this to the pan and stir through.
  7. Add sauce and curry powder and stir fry until rice is warmed through.  Add a little bit of water if rice becomes too dry at this point.
  8. Remove shrimp to a separate bowl at this point as not to overcook them.
  9. Make a well in the centre, crack eggs in and scramble.
  10. When eggs are almost cooked through, combine with the rice and continue to stir fry, 2 minutes or until rice is lightly sautéed.

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Dig in.

Dish out and serve topped with the shrimp and the green parts of the green onions.  You can also serve more sliced small red chilies on the side for extra kick.