Cooking rice, or more specifically ‘making pilaf’ is a serious matter in Turkish cuisine. Pilaf is one of the most popular side dishes to accompany a great variety of traditional meals. And in some cases it is a meal on its own, incorporating meat and/or vegetables and other seasonings. Cooking perfect pilaf is regarded as a matter of high esteem among homecooks or professional chefs alike! Well, ok I will not go on blabbering about how a perfect pilaf should be because that is not the issue here. This dish, which I chose to call Turkish Risotto doesn’t require much skill or perfection and is quite easier to prepare. Unlike risotto the rice here should be well cooked and not at all “al dente”! Yet the dish should have a somewhat porridge-like consistency similar to that of risotto.
As for the story behind this dish, again it is one of those nostalgic foods that takes me way back to my childhood. My paternal grandmother used to make this and she taught my mom. The wonderfully warm aroma of rice cooked with lightly sautéed onions, green peppers and fresh tomatoes is very difficult for me to describe but it still smells the same… If you ever try this simple, humble rice dish use baldo rice or any other plump and short grain rice variety you can find. And also please do make sure you use the freshest tomatoes and green peppers in season. And last but not least, let me note that this is a vegan recipe as long as you use vegetable broth.
- 1 medium size white onion
- 3 medium to large sized tomatoes (use beef tomatoes if available)
- 2 banana peppers (or small green bell peppers)
- 100 ml of good quality olive oil (1/3 cup + 1 tbsp)
- 1 ½ cups of baldo rice
- 3 ¼ cup beef, chicken or vegetable broth *
- Salt and freshly ground blackpepper
* You can replace half or a certain fraction of this amount of broth with tomato juice if you prefer a stronger tomato color and taste
Step by step method
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- Chop onion finely. Wash and remove the seeds and veins (if any) of the pepper, then cut into thin short strips.
- Place a large pot on medium heat. Add olive oil, onions and peppers and sautée for a few minutes.
- Wash and peel tomatoes then dice them and add to the pot. Season with salt and pepper, close the lid and let cook over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes.
- Pour the broth and wait until it comes to a boil. Shortly wash the rice under running cold water, drain and add to the pot. Increase the heat and wait until it comes to a boil. Once it starts boiling stir briefly with wooden spoon, place the lid on, turn the heat down to very low and leave to simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring every now and then. Your rice is ready to serve once it has absorbed nearly all of the liquid, and the grains have become tender.
- Serve with a generous dash of freshly ground blackpepper, which I believe is a must for this dish! You can also sprinkle some chopped dill or parsley and season your rice with tabasco or other hot sauces if you like.