Ma cuisine macédonienne : riz au four végétarien
Comfort food, what does it mean to you? For me it’s something that is easy to make, something that warms you up (physically and/or emotionally) and something that without doubt brings up good memories. My all time favourite comfort food is jufki. I’ve probably told you that already. That’s basically mac & cheese, but Macedonian style. It entails good (homemade) tagliatelle, baked off in a bit of butter after cooking and topped by a good amount of crumbled white cheese (aka feta). Yum. Not at all nourishing, I know, but nourishing wasn’t part of my description of comfort food. Todays dish is – a bit more – nourishing though and is one of my other go-to comfort foods. It’s a Macedonian dish, which I call ‘vegetarian oven baked rice’. I could have also called it ‘vegan oven baked rice’.
Like many of my comfort foods, this dish brings me back to Macedonia, to my majkica’s (my grandmother Trpa) kitchen. The place where she would make this plate, whenever she would cook and bake up a whole chicken. Next to eating the chicken, after it was cooked and then baked, she would also often make soup or/and make this rice dish from the remaining broth. It was always delicious, like a heathy soup with a bite. One of my favourite most favourite Balkan rice dishes (along with Greek meatballs).
But when I stopped eating meat twenty years ago, I also stopped eating this dish. Assuming that it could only taste this good if it was made from chicken broth. Then, one day, I was really longing for this dish and I couldn’t resist doing a test. I tried to recreate a vegetarian version, and I found out that I had made a mistake, because it turned out perfectly ok. I missed out on this comfort food all those years with no good reason. The trick for creating a poultry free tasty dish, is to add something oily (I use sunflower oil) to it to compensate for the lack of fat in a vegetarian bouillon. This creates a crispy crust on top, which this dish really needs.
Anyhow, let me not take any more of your time. Below you can find out how I make it. Feel free to add more veggies to the dish if you like. You could add some celery or anything else that you would put in a vegetable soup, but I like it simple, so I only add carrots and onions. And about the type of rice. I used risotto rice this time, but you can also use thinner grain rice. It will give a slightly drier end result and a more crusty crust. It all depends on your own preferences (and the contents of your kitchen cupboards) though. Good, here we go:
Macedonian oven baked rice – vegetarian
Ingredients (for 4+ p)
- 3 small cups of rice
- 2 big onions
- 4 big carrots
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbsp red pepper (sweet)
- (depending on your brand) 2 or 3 vegetarian bouillon cubes (I use Vegeta)
- 10 (!) tbsp sunflower oil (honestly, I wouldn’t replace it for other oils)
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1L water
Start by preparing your veggies and heating up the pan with the sunflower oil (8 tbsp) on the stove. You can also pre-heat the oven at 200-220 C. Now add the onions to the pan on the stove first. Stir them around until they become fairly lucent. Continue adding the chopped carrots now and keep on stirring on a fairly high fire (don’t let it burn though). Time to add the chopped garlic. Mix it around along with the crumbled bouillon and the pepper powder. Now you can add the rice and stir once more.
It’s time to place everything in your pre-oiled (the 2 remaining tbsp) oven dish. First place your stir fried mix into it and then top it off with (cold or warm) water. Mix it around a bit. You will see from this point on that the oil will slowly move upwards on the dish, that’s a good sign.
Now place it in the oven and let it bake-off for about 45-60min. It takes quite a while, but keep an eye on your oven, to make sure that the rice doesn’t dry out. If it looks like it’s drying out, but isn’t ready, then you can add a bit of water and place it back in the oven. When it’s ready, meaning that the rice has absorbed all the water and it tastes like it’s done, you can move on to the last step. Turn your oven from a normal setting to a grill setting and move the temperature up to 250C. Grill it off for five more minutes. Now you are done!
Serve it up with a fresh tomato salad in summer and a pickled salad in winter. I also tend to add a dollop of – Greekish – yoghurt. But that’s also a matter of habit, not all of you will appreciate that. If you do try it out, the dish or the yoghurt, please let me know how you liked it. And what’s your (vegetarian) comfort food?