That’s Armenian Cheese Pilaf to you…
An indulgent repast for 4
Pilaf/pilav is a word derived from the Persian word pulao, and can just refer to pretty rice. But more often, as here, it actually denotes the method of cooking: the rice is first fried in butter or ghee, usually with vegetables and seasoning, whereupon stock is added, the pan is covered and sealed, and the whole is left for half an hour or so to cook. Simpler pilafs can be used as an accompaniment, but some are so rich and delish that they are a meal in themselves. Pilaf permutations are endless, so don’t be afraid to experiment with this recipe..
- ghee or rapeseed oil for frying (olive oil will taste wrong here)
- 2 onions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 350g long grain rice, washed and drained
- 2 teaspoons dried dill
- 750ml vegetable stock
- juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 600g spinach, washed and shredded
- 250g halloumi cheese (or any other cheese, to be honest)
- big handful of fresh chopped parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- knob of butter
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts (or hazelnuts)
- 1 tablespoon flaked almonds
- 2 teaspoons sumac
Heat the oil in a decent sized saucepan and fry the onion and the garlic until they are browned, verging on crispy. Add the drained rice and the dill, stirring well so that everything gets a buttery coating, and then add the stock and the lemon juice/zest. Stir well and bring to the boil before turning the heat down and adding the spinach. Cover the lid of the pan with a clean tea towel, fitting it firmly in place leave the pilaf to simmer for another twenty minutes. Resist the urge to peek. Go set the table or something.
Once this time is up, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork or a wooden spoon (using a metal spoon in this instance compresses the rice). Now add the cheese and the parsley, stir well again and season to taste. From my experience you can never have enough black pepper with this dish. Replace the lid and let the rice rest for a few minutes – this will give the cheese a chance to melt.
Melt the butter in a frying pan and fry the nuts until they assume an appropriate golden colour. Spoon the pilaf on to a platter, strew the nuts on top and sprinkle with sumac. A side salad would be nice.