Route 79 : Pilchard Rice
The effects of feeling hungry on the way home
July 14 2003
Here is the illustrated recipe and cooking instructions for a dinner you can cook up when youve run out of ideas - or you cant be bothered to go out shopping for any fresh ingredients - or the shops have closed and youve not got a lot in your fridge. It is a delicious comfort food dish that is the sort of thing we in the Route79 household prepare when theres nothing else to cook out in the house - except for the most basic of ingredients and a tactical tin of sardines! And I am calling it Pilchard Rice.
What you need is a couple of onions, a couple of potatoes and a tin of sardines (pilchards - same thing) - but make sure you get the tomato version - not the brine version! You also need to have access to the basic set of spices:
Place the nearly-full cup of rice (basmati) into a sieve and leave to rinse under a cold running tap for a few minutes. Then drain over the measuring cup. (You can peel the onions and potatoes whilst the rice is rinsing.)
OK - so having peeled the onion and potatoes - then open up the sardine tin and empty it into a deep dish - all the fish and juices - just pour it all out. Then take each piece of fish from the dish with a fork and a knife and place it onto plate - and slit it carefully into two - in order to remove the bone. Discard the bones in the original can. (Some people like to leave the bone in - it is very delicate is very edible as a good source of calcium - but I dont personally like the texture.)
Then dice the potatoes and put them into a small pan for part-boiling. For convenience -boil some water in the kettle and when its done - pour it into the potato pan and simmer for around 7 minutes. Also chop the onion coarsely:
Fry the onion - and also defrost some chunks of frozen garlic, ginger and chillie from your freezer. (If you dont have these then hard luck. Every 3 months or so you should go to your local Asian grocer and buy loads of fresh garlic, ginger and chillie (in bulk) - and then spend a Sunday morning peeling it all, washing it, and zapping it to a pulp in the food processor before spreading the pulp into freezer bags and freezing it. This is a very convenient way to have the essential ingredients to hand within seconds. You can do the same with coriander: especially at this time of the year - the local grocer will probably be selling 3-bunches for a pound - and these are HUGE bunches - not the measly, nicely-packaged stuff you get for £1.79 in Safeway - no: these bunches of coriander will be around 30 times as big - for about half the price. Just wash it all in a sink when you get it home and then discard any wilting leaves and finely chop it all up using a knife and then fill up a couple of freezer bags and chuck it in the freezer.)
Whilst the onion is cooking off - add some jeera (cumin seed) if you have some - as this will make it tastier. If not - dont worry. Then stir in the tomato juices from the tin of sardines: the bits that were left in the deep dish after you removed all the bones:
It is at this point that you need to add the spice: around 1 teaspon each of haldi (turmeric), red-chillie and ground coriander, two heaped teaspoons of garam masala - and around half a teaspon of salt. Stir it all in on a powerful simmer so that the spices really fuse into the tomoato juice mixture. Do this for around 4 minutes or so.
Then - after frying for a few minutes - add the drained part-boiled potato chunks - give it a really good stir around - and then add the drained rice:
Stir it a bit - until everything is well coated. Then add about 1.5 times the volume of rice of water (approx. 1.5 cups) - stir it in - and bring to the boil on a really fierce flame.
Just before the mixture starts to boil - add the fish pieces - stirring really slowly and carefully so you dont break them up too much. Then add some fresh chopped coriander leaf you have some: the more the merrier!
Bring back to a fierce boil - and then when it starts to get really violent drop the flame down the LOWEST that you can get. Put the lid on (with the vent fully open) and let it simmer for around 25 mins.
About halfway through - take off the lid and give the contents a gentle turning over. Put the lid back on and let it simmer for another 15 mins or so. (DONT KEEP TAKING THE LID OFF TO SEE HOW ITS GOING) Then - after half hour or so - it should be done - the rice will be all fluffy (not sloppy) - just put the lid on the pan slightly lop-sided and let it rest with the flame turned off for around 15 mins. After that it will be ready to serve!
Just scoop generous spoonfulls onto a plate - and garnish with sliced cucumber and lemon juice or slices. This is a delicious meal! (Spoon any leftovers into a bowl and cover with clingfilm - stick into fridge and it should last a couple of days no problem. Just microwave on high heat for a few minutes to reheat the next day or so!)
Have you tried this? Even
if you haven't - let me know what you think!