Saturday, 22 February 2014

Kichree - Iraqi rice and lentils with garlic and cumin

I promised a friend I would share this recipe for kichree (كجري), a traditional Iraqi dish of rice and red lentils, with tomato, cumin and plenty of garlic.  It's similar to the Egyptian kushwaree, and much more distantly related to kedgeree.

I think this version is originally by Linda Dangoor, shared with me from a book of Iraqi Jewish recipes, that is sadly out of print.


  • 400ml basmati rice  
  • 150ml red lentils
  • 450ml water
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • Salt

  • Sauté the onions in the oil until softened
  • Add the garlic, spices, tomato and salt
  • Add the rice and lentils and mix to ensure every grain is coated in the oil and spices
  • Add the water and bring to the boil
  • Once the water looks absorbed into the rice, cover, turn onto the lowest heat and cook for 20-25 minutes. Try to resist opening the lid, unless absolutely necessary, as the stream helps the rice to cook.
  • Rest for 10 minutes with the lid on before serving. 
This tastes good served with a little natural yoghurt, fried onions, grilled halloumi, or I quite like it with some toasted almond slivers or pine nuts. Adding a fried egg on top is also very traditional.  

A tip to get the rice nice and fluffy is to soak for 30 minutes beforehand, and to properly wash it. I wash the rice in a large bowl by filling with water, swishing (very technical!) and pouring out the cloudy water. I repeat 8-10 times, until the water goes clear. Substituting about a quarter of the white rice for brown basmati is also nice and would give a more al dente texture. Finally, cooking rice in this way will result in a crust of rice at the bottom of the pan that might be a little bit - to use a Scottish term - 'well fired'. That's equally traditional, as anyone from this region will testify - some people I know might even call that the best bit! 

I hope you like it, and do let me know if you give this a try. 

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Everyone Can Dance

Earlier this month, I thoroughly enjoyed watching an evening of ballet performances, at Edinburgh Ballet Circle’s annual showcase, at the St Bride’s Centre, Edinburgh. 

Edinburgh Ballet Circle

Edinburgh Ballet Circle is an entirely amateur ballet troupe, consisting of dancers who regularly attend one of the many adult ballet classes across the city.  This was set up in 2011 by director Jonathan Burnett and is the first entirely non-professional ballet company in Edinburgh for some 50 years.  I've been attending Jonathan's classes for a couple of years now and I went along to support some of the people from my class who were in the show. 

The production consisted of 3 ballets.  The first part was my favourite, Act 2 of The Nutcracker, featuring a fun circus themed twist together with some fine comedy touches.  I particularly loved the ‘sugar plum fairy tight rope dancers’, with brave tutu wearing amateur ballerinas, showing off pointe work skills.  There were also ‘chinese plate spinner dancers’ with their pirouette free for all.  And I can't omit to mention the small group of male ballerinos who appeared in almost every scene and were game for anything, even a tongue in cheek clown routine.  The second ballet was a dramatization of the Little Mermaid, with wistful and dramatic story telling, ably danced and very atmospheric.  The finale was the ‘Ballet of the Nuns’, a quirky show that lived up to its bizarre title.

Nuns in tutus
I absolutely loved the whole thing.  Overall, the night showcased everything I love about community dance, whatever the genre.  It’s fantastic to see dancers of every ability, age, shape and size giving it their all.  There was always something to look at, whether skill, drama and finesse, or smiles of joy coming from the corps de ballet for just being there. 

It really reminded me how great it is within the Egyptian Dance or Belly Dance community, to have performing opportunities for student dancers to express themselves, whether at a local hafla, festival or community show.  It is so important that these showcases continue, for dancers of every skill level to work hard for, enjoy, and share with friends and family. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Learning from Baby Liv

I want to share this amazing video with you.  My teacher Merav first shared it with us students whilst we were in the middle of a classic series of Feldenkrais lessons that focused on relearning developmental movements like rolling.

These are all movements that come naturally in the first year of life, including this little baby called Liv:

To read my other related posts, click on the label Feldenkrais

Thursday, 9 May 2013

A Fabulous Bellydance Day Out

I'm so glad that the unseasonal snow and zero degree temperatures didn't keep me from attending the first ever Miss Fabulous Bellydance in Peebles in March. 
Oriental winners Tammy, Sarah and Beata
It was a lovely day out and a fabulous celebration of all those dancers who dance just for fun.  The one rule for the competition was that it was entirely amateur - in fact anyone who had ever been paid for performing or teaching any kind of dance was not allowed to take part.  Dancers came from near and far (well far meaning Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow) to show off their skills in 4 categories - groups, oriental, tribal and comedy.  There was plenty of glitter, beautiful costumes, big smiles and a few surprises.
Tribal winners Nihoma, Kaz and Aileen
Congratulations to all the winners, all their proud teachers, and a big thank you to Celia Buchan for putting on such a fabulous event!  And I'm already looking forward to next year! 

The Helwa Hurdies, second place in the Groups
Winning comedy duo the Gummi Bears

Friday, 26 April 2013

Quick Middle Eastern Style Side Salad

Lemon and mint give this easy salad a characteristic flavour reminiscent of those plates of finely chopped crudités you get when traveling in a Middle Eastern country. 

I thought I'd share this recipe alongside my usual dance themed blogging, as it looked really pretty and was very quick to prepare.  It makes a great side dish, or healthy lunch along with some pitta and humous. 


Mix together:
  • Halved cherry tomatoes
  • Chopped red pepper
  • Chopped fresh mint
  • lots of lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper


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