Mama Rice: pronounced “Muh-Muh”
I think many of us have that one dish that reminds us of home, where as instantly as you smell it you are reminded of how it felt to be squeezed by the safety of your grandmother’s body. So naturally, sharing this dish feels like much more than sharing food. This dish gets its name from my great-grandmother, Mama, and was passed on to me by my grandma’s sister, Gabo. We have lots of cutsie names in my family. Go with it. Mama rice instantly sends me back to childhood: standing in the rain because it was exhilarating, tirelessly playing four-square with bloody knees and hands, and just living without a care in the world.
This is the first time I’ve ever made Mama Rice, and I suppose it is somewhat of bench mark. I don’t remember the last time I walked out in the rain to intentionally get wet, and my last game of four-square was well over ten years ago.
Mama isn’t alive anymore to cook Mama Rice for our family, but taking on this recipe myself means that I’m an adult now and it is my responsibility now to share those feelings of comfort, security and warmth with you as Mama shared with all of us.
And it’s no small factor that it happens to be INSANELY delicious and highly addictive.
What you need:
2 cups basmati rice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup fresh green beans; cut into two inch pieces
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 small onion
1/2 lb ground beef or veal
salt for seasoning
How to do it:
I’m not going to get into the knitty gritty of Persian rice preparation. Persian rice requires patience, care and can be very tempermental, even for experienced cooks. Dare I say Persian rice is an awful lot like a woman? Feminists: deep breath. I will say that it helps to soak your rice in water with a little salt for an hour or a few hours before cooking it. If you can’t, then don’t. Nothing will happen. But it’s part of the method and ends up being fairly important when you want to make more impressive rice dishes (which we’ll do!). What you must do, however, is wash the rice until the water runs clean. This means washing it about three or for times, swishing the rice around with your hand and draining.
When your rice has finishing soaking, start with the meat. Heat up your oil on low, as always in Persian cooking, and finely dice your onion. Add the meat and break it into little pieces with your spatula until it looks cooked.
Once it looks cooked, add your tomato paste, green beans and cinnamon and combine well. Set aside.
In a pot, add your rice, a little oil and some salt.
4 cups of water for 2 cups of rice, got it? When the rice is half-way cooked (after about ten minutes) and most of the water is absorbed, add the meat and vegetable mixture and combine very well. It is finished when all the water is absorbed.
Very important: stick your face into the pot and smell. How incredible is that?!
As Gabo says, this is a full meal on its own. I hope you enjoy it!