Sunday, 8 April 2012

Mancare de stevie cu orez

“Patience dock leaves and rice”

I have very vivid memories of dock leaves from when I was a child, normally memories of spitting on them and holding them on a freshly-inflamed area of skin brought about by running through the stinging nettles at the bottom of the garden. I never once recall talk of eating dock leaves but apparently they are edible and a forager’s favourite. The most commonly-found type of dock plant is the broad dock and I suppose it was this that grew at the bottom of my garden. This is edible, but apparently not favoured. The patience dock (rumex patientia) makes the best eating and it is this that can be found in the market around Romania in the spring, under the name of stevie – no, not the diminutive of Steven: it’s pronounced shtev-ee-eh.

Stevie, the patience dock, has numerous uses in Romanian cuisine. Most commonly, it is cooked as a kind of salad, a meal in its own right or as a side dish. It can be cooked in a similar way to spinach, as in the recipe found here, but can also be made a little more substantial with the addition of rice as in the recipe on this page. Furthermore, the larger leaves can be used to make a kind of sarmale, a little packet of rice and sometimes meat rolled up in the stevie leaf and boiled slowly in a ceramic pot. Sometimes the young leaves are chopped and used in salads. The plant itself is purported to present many health benefits and are packed with minerals and vitamins.

Time: 60 minutes
Servings: 4-6 portions

5-6 bunches of patience dock (about 500g after trimming)
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup of rice
1 tablespoon of tomato puree/paste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 knob of butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Trim the thick stalks off the patience dock leaves and give them a wash. Pre-heat the oven to about 220 degree C (490F).
2. Blanch the leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds, remove, change the water, repeat, plunge into cold water and leave to drain. This process of blanching helps to soften the leaves and removes some of the more bitter flavours.
3. Roughly chop the patience dock leaves once they have drained.
4. In a ovenproof pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the finely-chopped onion for a few minutes until it is soft and translucent.
5. Add the chopped patience dock leaves to the onion and stir well for a minute or two.
6. Add the finely-chopped garlic cloves (you can use more, or even omit them entirely, according to taste) to the onion and dock and stir in.
7. Add the cup of rice (you can use any rice really, it’s up to you) and mix in well.
8. Add the tomato puree and mix in.
9. Pour in 3 cups of water, cover with a lid or some foil, and put the whole pan into the pre-heated oven.
10. Check back from time to time to check on the progress of the rice. Once the rice has absorbed all the liquid and is edible, the dish is done. Make sure it doesn’t run out of liquid - if the water has been absorbed and the rice is still a little crunchy, then just pour in a little more liquid.
11. Once it is done, remove it from the oven and stir in a nice knob of butter for a little extra richness. This dish can be eaten with eggs and bread as a dish in its own right, or used as a side dish. Can be eaten hot or cold.

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