Anna Wootton

Riso alla Orientale

As I slowly begin to transfer my old posts from Guiltless & Gourmet to this new blog, I realize there is an advantage to this. For you guys, anyway.

Any recipes I was making for the first time I have now made at least once again, so you are able to benefit from my trial and error (really, that should be errors…).

By the way, full disclosure before this post continues: my mom looked at it in preview and says “Why do you have so many photos?”. Me: “Photos are great, they keep it readable and interesting.” Mom: “But they’re all the same.” Me (in horror): “No, they are not! This one is landscape but on a slight angle, this one is portrait, this one is closer up…(etc, etc)”. Mom: “Well they all look the same to me.”

So yeah, it’s a photo-heavy post and they probably will all look the same to you. But to me they really do look different. I get the same thing with people mixing my cats up all the time. To me they couldn’t be more different. Ah well, hopefully these multiple photos at least make you hungry. Then my job is done. Onto the food…

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Riso alla Orientale (I guess it’s the Italian way of saying Oriental-style rice?? I don’t know, I have never taken a day of Italian classes in my life) was one of the more gourmet dishes I made, from a cookbook called The Vegeterranean (you get the word play here, yes? No?). This is an Italian vegetarian cookbook (a rarity in and of itself). We’ve owned this cookbook for a while and it is a beautiful book, with full-page glossy colour photographs and exotic-sounding dishes, but most of the dishes look as though they might take a day to make.

Well, Riso alla Orientale looked delicious. But its recipe was in tiny font and took up an entire giant-sized page in the cookbook so yeah, I thought it would take at least a day to make.

The first time round it definitely took me a few hours and produced a thinner sauce than I would like – the cubes of paneer cheese looked as though they were swimming in the sauce (it wasn’t too pleasant and they say eating is 50% with the eyes, or did I just make up that statistic?).

Since then I have cooked it once more and came up with a bunch of shortcuts and a few methods to get the sauce nice and thick and creamy, which is how it came out in these photos. So yay for successes and yay for shortcuts! I also made it with halloumi cheese the second time round because our supermarket was out of paneer, and it was delicious, so it’s good to know that the two cheeses really are interchangeable for this dish.

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This recipe is an Indian-themed recipe, featuring an Indian-spiced tomato sauce with paneer and fragrant rice and the cooking process calls for a lot of ghee! I tend to cook fairly low-fat myself just because I don’t like my food too greasy, so I nearly had a heart attack when I read how much oil and butter and ghee the recipe called for at various points. That’s the way the Italians do it, I guess! So the recipe below reflects my changes, including less fat!

This recipe is also gluten-free!

INGREDIENTS (serves 6):

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1 package paneer or halloumi, chopped into 1-inch cubes
2 tbsp olive oil or an olive oil-based margarine, such as Olivina

1 1/2 cups frozen green peas
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, cut into wedges
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger or 2 tsp powdered ginger
1 small green bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
10 tomatoes, peeled, deseeded, juiced chopped (to avoid a runny sauce squeeze ALL liquid out of the tomatoes!)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
1 tbsp mint, chopped
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
Just over 1/2 cup plain or Greek yogurt, at room temperature
Salt and black pepper to taste

3 tbsp sesame seeds
12 fl oz vegetable stock
1/2 tsp minced garlic)
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Olivina
1 1/4 cups Basmati or long-grain white rice
2 tbsp chopped parsley


1. Saute in your 2 tbsp of oil or margarine until golden brown; season to taste.

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1. Combine the peas with 1 tbsp of the olive oil, onion, salt and black pepper. Add enough water to cover. Cook until the peas are tender. Drain liquid off and discard the onion.

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2. Heat the cumin seeds, shallot and garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp margarine until the cumin seeds colour. Add the ginger and green pepper and roast for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, coriander, curry powder, fennel and half the fresh herbs. Cook for 15 minutes partly covered, stirring occasionally.
3. Puree tomato mix in a blender, transfer back to the heat, add the peas and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat, cool for 10 minutes, and slowly mix in the yogurt until fully combined.
5. Add the paneer and the remaining herbs and taste for seasoning. Keep warm.

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1. Toast the sesame seeds in 1/2 tsp salt and set aside.
2. Heat the stock and keep at a simmer.
3. In a heavy-bottomed pot, gently saute the garlic and shallots in the olive oil and butter until the shallots are transparent. Stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock, partly cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and is cooked.
4. Divide the rice over six serving plates, sprinkle with parsley and the toasted sesame seeds. Serve sauce on top of and surrounding the rice.

Enjoy! (Nutrition information under last photo).

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Nutritional information below analyzed based on my lower-fat version, and offers information per serving if the dish serves 6.

Nutritional information courtesy of