Rice with dates and orange zest

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Although we’ve had a fairly mild winter in Israel this year, on colder days there is nothing better than a good comforting carbohydrate fix. Last shabbat, the weather forecast was for cold and wet weather and although it turned out to be quite pleasant in the end, when planning the menu (we were 15 for lunch) I wanted to throw in something that would be warm and satisfying.

I have an old favourite rice dish which I cook occasionally and it can be varied in any number of ways. I usually stick to plain white rice but I’ve seen that the reasoning behind it (kids won’t eat any other kind) is faulty (once I start adding “stuff” in they won’t eat it whatever the case) so I think that next time I’ll use wholegrain, or red rice or a wild rice mix, or freekah, or wheatberries – just adjust the cooking times and liquids accordingly. The recipe also suggests that ground beef can be added at an early stage which I’ve not tried but have no explanation as to why that is. The original recipe also calls for rocket which I haven’t tried but I had some spare spinach when I was making this and threw it in – might have been better adding it in just before serving.

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Like most of what I cook, the recipe is simple and after some basic preparation cooks itself. The result however is sweet and tangy due to the liberal use of orange zest and dates and very moreish – if you’re trying to cut the carbs it’s probably best avoided! Dress is up with roasted veggies, preserved lemons (of course!), or just something green.

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Ingredients:

2 cups Persian white (or other) rice

2 medium onions, roughly chopped

1 cup dates, pitted and roughly chopped

zest of 2 medium oranges

handful of raisins

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

optional: 250 grams of ground beef or lamb

Method:

Rinse and drain the rice

Heat oil over a medium heat to cover the base of your pan

Add rice and dates and cook, stirring

If using, add beef and allow to brown

Add rice, orange zest and raisins, continue to cook, stirring for approximately 5 minutes

Add stock, bring to a boil and then simmer covered for approx 15 – 20 minutes or until rice is ready.

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