Beetroot & apple pilaf with sheep’s cheese, hazelnuts & parsley recipe image

Print Beetroot & apple pilaf with sheep’s cheese, hazelnuts & parsley

Pilaf is a simple dish of fragrantly spiced rice that follows the old spice route from India, through the Middle East and into North Africa and Southern Europe.

Ingredients

  • 300g basmati rice
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 beetroots
  • Cardamom pods
  • 1 orange
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • Plain oil e.g. sunflower or light olive
  • 75g Wootton White sheep’s cheese
  • 30g parsley
  • 1 apple
  • 50g hazelnuts
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • Salt & pepper

Method

  1. Get the rice ready by putting a kettle of water on to boil. Rinse the rice under cold running water in a sieve. Place the rice in the saucepan with a good pinch of salt. Cover with boiling water, return to the boil and simmer for 6 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile prepare the veg. Peel and finely dice the red onion. Peel and finely chop 2 garlic cloves. Peel and grate the beetroots, give them a bit of a chop with your knife to make them even finer.
  3. Give the cardamom pods a light bash with the butt of your knife. Peel 3 long strips of zest from the orange with a veg peeler. Finely zest the remainder of the orange skin. Check the rice is ready and then drain and keep to one side.
  4. Give the pan a quick clean. Put the pan back on the heat with 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onions and fry gently for 10 minutes until starting to soften. Add the butter, garlic, caraway, cardamom pods, half the cinnamon stick and the strips of orange zest.
  5. Fry for 2 minutes until smelling fragrant. Add the beetroot to the pan and fry gently for 5 minutes. Season everything well with salt and pepper. Tip 100ml of water into the pan and add the rice. Gently turn through the onions and beetroots until combined.
  6. Try not to compress it too much. Gently level it out and press 8 hole into the rice with the handle of a wooden spoon. Drape the tea towel over the top of the pan (see cook’s notes) and pop the lid on. Fold the edges of the tea towel up and over the lid so as they don’t catch.
  7. Cook on a very low heat for 10-15 minutes. While the rice cooks, coarsely crumble the Wootton White cheese. Wash the parsley, shake it dry, pick the leaves and chop them. Wash the apple, divide into quarter’s and cut away the core. Cut the apple into a small half cm dice.
  8. Coarsely chop the hazelnuts. Warm the frying pan on a medium heat and add the hazelnuts. Toast lightly for 1 minute or so.
  9. Add the allspice and the fine orange zest. Toast for a further 30 seconds. Add 1 teaspoon of oil and the chopped parsley. Mix everything well and season with salt and pepper. When the pilaf is ready, fold in the diced apple and check the seasoning. Adjust if necessary.
  10. Divide into bowls and top with the crumbled cheese and the nut, spice and parsley mixture.

Cooks notes

The key to this dish, is in the gentle cooking of the rice. The aim is to get the grains of rice fluffy and separated. I trick I use is to place a tea towel under the lid to help absorb condensation in the pan, as this can make the grains stick together. If you have trouble getting your hob to a very low setting, it is worth checking the rice to make sure it doesn’t stick. A dash more water should help and you may need to lessen the cooking time.
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