Sunday, July 6, 2014

Rouz Jerbi (Riz Djerbian, Tunisian Spinach Rice)

This is one of the strangest yet most awesome recipes that the CC has seen.

When the CC first encountered it he was mystified. Wouldn't 50+ minutes of steaming turn the vegetables into mush? Was he getting something wrong?

No, he was just forgetting something.

Rice is deeply hygroscopic.

It will absorb moisture like nobody's business so you need to store rice in a humidity-free environment. In fact, it is so hygroscopic that if you ever drop your cellphone inside water and it doesnt' work, first dry it out and then put it inside a sealed bag filled with dry uncooked rice. Chances are it will work in a few days.

The CC has given this advice to quite a few people and they were just baffled. The CC argued, "What do you have to lose? A few cups of cheap rice, right?" Right down to the last man and woman, the smartphones have come back to life. One friend whose young daughter had mastered the art of grabbing his smartphone and throwing it in the toilet particularly appreciated the CC.

Science. It works, bitches!

The recipe is from the island of Djerba in Tunisia. The CC has provided the French spelling as well since Tunisia was a French Protectorate and you are more likely to encounter the dish under that name.

In this recipe, a mélange of dry rice, spinach, parsley, vegetables, chickpeas, optional meat, and a ton of spices are steamed for about 50 minutes. The rice does most of the absorption (including the liquid given off by the spinach and vegetables) and what you get is a perfectly steamed mixture that is intensely flavored and smells magical.

The dish can be extremely spicy but you can control the heat with the amount of harissa that you add to it. It has a slow burn.

It's not a hard dish in the least. You could do the prep in 30 minutes but you will need to endure two phases of steaming with by a precise interlude where you turn everything over and recommence.

Just think two de-stressing cocktails because minus the prep and the tiny amount of the interlude, you're not exactly working very hard. Even the prep is easy.

A steamer works perfectly here but the CC improvised since he has none in his apartment. The recipe is quite forgiving.

You absolutely need a long-grained rice. Short varieties are not going to work in this dish.


1 1/2 cups long-grained rice (e.g. basmati)

2 large onions (chopped fine)
4 cloves garlic (chopped fine)
1 large potato (cubed into large pieces)
1 large carrot (cubed into medium pieces)
1 large tomato (chopped into fine pieces)
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup peas

2 large bunches of spinach (chopped into fine slivers)
1 large bunch parsley (chopped fine)

chicken/lamb/beef ‐ (optional) ‐ cubed into small pieces

1/2 cup tomato paste
1/3 cup olive oil

1-2 tbsp. harissa

4 tbsp. coriander seeds (roasted and ground fine)
1 tbsp. caraway seeds (roasted and ground fine)
1 tbsp. turmeric
2 tsp. red chilli powder (or to taste)


First, toss the rice with the tomato paste and olive oil and mix thoroughly. The goal is to coat the rice with the oil to make sure that each grain remains separate. This is the aesthetic hallmark of Arab cuisine which you will see everywhere from Northern Africa to Iran to India.

Then you just add all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix them thoroughly.

The mixture must then be steamed in a tightly-sealed steamer for about 25 minutes. At that mark, you must pull it out into a bowl, very gently mix everything together and steam it again for about 20-25 minutes. (Add more water to the bottom if necessary.)

The length of the second steaming depends on the age of your rice. The older it is, the less you will need to cook it.

Rouz Jerbi


macavity said...

I can't wait to try this out. Any recommendations for using fresh, summer tomatoes? I'm out of tomato paste.

ShockingSchadenfreude said...

Thick tomato sauce. You don't need that much.

The tomato paste and the oil need to coat the raw rice before you mix all the ingredients in.

Fresh tomatoes are not going to work.