Leek and rice pilaf: the story of a failed side dish

Last night, some friends of ours (Penny and Shayne) invited us over to their place for dinner. It was a bit of a pot luck so I decided I would bring a vegetable dish to complement the pie that they were making. Vegetable dishes can be difficult to make sometimes – not because they require great skill, but there is an art in selecting a vegetable dish that works well with the main meat dish but doesn’t overpower it.

I have a really useful cookbook for these types of occasion – The New Zealand Vegetable Cookbook by Lauraine Jacobs, Ginny Grant and Kathy Paterson. The book is divided into seasons, making it easy to find recipes that don’t require you to track down expensive vegetables that are out of season.

I wanted something simple to make that didn’t require a lot of preparation or a lot of different types of ingredients. As I was flicking through I found a recipe for a leek and red rice pilaf. It fitted what I was looking for – simple, very few ingredients, tasty and had something that you don’t eat everyday – red rice.

As the leeks were cooking, they developed this vibrant green shine to them. They were rather photogenic if I must say, and I felt quite pleased with myself.

I started to think about the angle for this post and came up with the idea of developing a blog series on dishes that would be perfect to take to a pot luck dinner. I mentally starting preparing a list of requirements that dishes would have to have.

Feeling quite smug that I had come up with an interesting angle for the blog, I checked on my leek pilaf.

It looked terrible.

One of the basic requirements that pot luck dishes should have (or any meal for that matter) is that it should on some level, look appetizing. People should want to eat it.

This looks liked this weird off-green mush with red specks of rice.

I reasoned with myself – surely it would taste delicious. I picked up a teaspoon to try it.

Bland.

I felt somewhat betrayed. I’m under no illusions that leeks are not exactly the most flavour packed vegetables, but the recipe promised that the red rice would make up for this – complementing the ‘sweet mellow leek’ with the nuttiness of the rice.

There was no way I could bring this to dinner.

I felt terrible, especially as we were already running slightly late. There was no way I could whip something else up and we needed to bring something.

Instead, I admitted defeat. We popped by the supermarket on the way and I bought a delicious, decadent chocolate molten tart. I’ve had this tart before and it is divine.

When we arrived, I discovered that Penny had made some roast vegetables so the absence of my leek pilaf did not leave a gaping hole in the meal. And on the plus side, no one had bought dessert so my tart went down a treat.

 

One pot ginger gem muffins

I ended up making these muffins about a week ago while I was suffering from a nasty cold. On the Saturday morning I did a massive clear out of my recipe books during the weekend and found a cute little book called Marvellous Muffins which seemed rather twee. I nearly threw it out, but Joe convinced me that it was worth keeping. Looking through, it does have some more unusual takes on muffin flavours – like orange crunch muffins or potato and dill muffins so it is probably worth keeping for a little while.

I made these on the Sunday morning. They were dead easy, as muffins usually are. I think people underestimate muffins as a great breakfast food – they are simple to make and don’t take that much time. In about 30 minutes you can have warm, freshly baked muffins to eat.

The only unusual aspect of this recipe was that you make it in a pot on the stove. This was great though – as a messy baker, it made clean up a breeze.

I made these in silicone muffin cups. Silicone bakeware is really useful for cleaning up but I’ve realised that it is not suitable for baking. One of the problems with using silicone bakeware is that it you don’t get the lovely caramelised crust that you get from usual bakeware. It also seems to increase the cooking time. I recently used a silicone bundt cake tin to make a chocolate mocha cake and it took double the time to bake the cake in. Annoying!

Recipe to come.