Thursday, March 20, 2008

Novel Food: Red Rice with Maya

One Christmas I was wandering around Melbourne with Ryan, and we found a beautiful bookshop. No glossy best-sellers here, but the quirkiest collection I'd seen anywhere. I lusted over a beautiful old atlas, and ogled some beautiful cookbooks. Then I lingered in the biographies, torn between heart-tugging stories. One title jumped out at me, "hallelujah! the welcome table". It was subtitled a lifetime of memories with recipes. The author was Maya Angelou. How could I go past?
I have to admit that although I knew her name, and vaguely her story, I hadn't read any of Maya's stories. These ones jumped out at me - and I read the first two chapters before I even left the store. The recipes are a bit intimidating - as well as the Southern food from her childhood, there is cassoulet, beef wellington and souffle. Clearly Ms Angelou is not a cook to mess with. So although I've read through the book several times, I've only cooked one recipe, a simple one for red rice.
The stories are evocative and beautiful. And so are the recipes. One day I am going to attempt the double layer caramel cake. But I thought I'd start with something easy. This is my entry for Novel Food. It's cheating a bit, because it's a memoir, not a novel. But I thought I'd add it anyway.
Red Rice
225g thick back bacon rashers
2 medium onions, chopped
1 small red capsicum, seeded and chopped
475 ml canned diced tomatoes
175g tomato paste
ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
450g cooked white rice
475ml water
Fry bacon in a large skillet on medium heat until brown, stirring with fork. Add onions and capsicum. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove lid and add remaining ingredients; mix well. Bring to boil, about 3 minutes. Stir vigorously, cover again, and cook over a very low heat for about 15 minutes until rice and liquid are totally mixed.


Lucy said...

What a great entry!

You know, I do have a few Maya Angelou books around here. Thanks for the reminder to get back to them.

I wonder, which bookshop it was...sounds heavenly.

kazari said...

I couldn't tell you the bookshop, but I do remember it was near Lygon Street.

Lisa said...

This is lovely. I've read one of Angelou's memoirs (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings), but I didn't know she had this book with recipes out. Your red rice looks delish. Thanks so much for thinking of and joining in with our Novel Food event! Sorry about the mix-up with your message; I'll add you to my round-up now.

Simona said...

Your post reminded me how I like to visit bookstores in general and in particular when I visit a new place. Finding an unexpected treasure in a bookstore is so satisfying. I didn't know about this book: it sounds like a great read. Thanks for participating in our event.

Rosie said...

I grew up on this as well. We fixed it about once a week, at least, and it was one of the dishes you would leave at someone's house after a death. It's a very popular food in many places in the south and has a few permutations. Strangely, it doesn't appear all over the South--just in a few areas.

I grew up on the coast. If you want to make the coastal version--Red Rice and Shrimp--follow this recipe and add several tablespoons of Major Grey's Chutney(I always liked it a bit heavy on the chutney) and at the end of the cooking process, add a pound or two of shrimp. An electric skillet is the preferred device for making red rice since it is easier to keep it from burning.

To keep it from getting overly sticky--wash the rice really well and steam it until half done before adding into the skillet.