22 April 2018


I've posted recipes for this more than once, I think, but here's a better one.  We're sorting through all the hassles of moving to Cairo right now so it's nice to remember the good parts too. This version uses the instant pot and also cooks each thing separately so you can layer them.  I prefer them cooked separately, but you can do them together, cooking the lentils in plenty of water, then adding the rice after 20 minutes, then the pasta ten minutes later.  If you want garbanzos, cook them earlier. The system I use below doesn't get too many pots dirty which is the biggest drawback to the cook everything separately system. You just end up with one extra small pot that needs to be cleaned.

First, slice a bunch of onions (5 is not too many) and saute them till they're caramelized.  This takes a long time, but if you start them at the beginning and remember to stir every so often, they'll be ready when everything else is.

Next, get some water boiling for your rice and then start the rice cooking when the water boils.  At about the same time, also get the lentils cooking in the instant pot.  It's a 2-to-1 ratio of water to lentils and they'll cook for 15 minutes.

You can use lentils, rice, pasta, and/or garbanzos and you can adjust the ratios as you like.  A simple option is to do one cup of three different choices.  It really doesn't matter.  You can also use brown rice and whole wheat pasta.  I use garbanzos I cooked earlier because they take longer to cook.

While the lentils are cooking, get the sauce going.  Saute lots of garlic in some olive oil, then add some chopped tomatoes.  Maybe four plum tomatoes if you don't want much sauce, the way kushary seems to be done now, or more if you want more sauce.  I like more sauce so I use more tomatoes.  Also add some tomato paste (maybe 1/2 for less sauce, and 3/4 for more) and a glug of vinegar (3 T for less, more for more).  And some salt and cayenne- spicy is good for kushary.  Simmer that for 10-15 minutes while everything else cooks.

When the lentils are done, do a quick release, then spread the just-cooked rice on top.  If you're using garbanzos, add them for a layer.  Then rinse out the rice pot and boil water for the pasta, if you're using it.  When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it for the last layer.

Serve the layered legumes and grains out of the pot with the sauce and onions. Everything (the onions, sauce, and legumes/grains) should all finish at about the same time if you're lucky. The entire process takes about 35-40 minutes if you stay on track.

17 March 2018

Instant Pot Lo Mai Gai

It has been so nice to finally try all the recipes for steamed foods that I have avoided for years because I either didn’t have the right equipment or enough patience to deal with them.  This is supposed to be wrapped in lotus leaves and have mushrooms and sausage in it, but this is the version I can reasonably make in Saudi.

2 cups sticky rice
Banana leaves
1/2 kilo boneless chicken, chopped up (I use kitchen shears)

These are the basic ingredients and then you can flavor them the way you want.  Soak the rice for a few hours, if you remember in time, then a bit before you start cooking, drain it well and add some sesame oil, soy sauce, and vinegar.  Or something else that sounds good to you.  Let that marinate.  Also, marinate the chicken in some oyster sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, and cayenne.

Prepare the banana leaves.  I can get frozen, fairly narrow leaves so I just wash them and cut out the veins and have ten long strips.  That works nicely.

Sauté the chicken in a bit of oil till it’s just cooked.  Put a spoonful of the flavored, uncooked rice on the end of a banana leaf, then a spoonful of chicken, then another spoonful of rice.  Just divide the chicken and rice between all the leaves as evenly as possible.  Roll/fold the banana leaves around the chicken and rice (not too tightly so the rice can expand) and load the packets into a steamer basket.  Cook over high pressure for about thirty minutes (a little less is probably fine too), then do a natural or quick release, whichever works best for you.  

These are moist and don’t need extra sauce in my opinion.  I like to serve them with sautéed greens and add a little vinegar to the greens.  I’ve never tried these with lotus leaves, but banana leaves add a lovely flavor.

01 March 2018

Instant Pot Steamed Savory Rolls

Dumplings isn’t the right word for these.  But neither is spring rolls, and lumpia doesn’t fit either, or really anything else.  But whatever they’re called, they’re really easy.  The timing is for a filling that doesn’t need to be cooked (or that cooks quickly).  Use whatever filling you like. There are a million recipes out there or you can make up your own. Today I used tofu, jusay, and pickled cabbage and ir was amazing. I use mutabbaq sheets of dough because that’s what I can get here. You can make smaller rolls using sambosa sheets, or use spring rolls or wonton wrappers or whatever.  I like the big sheets because then I can use lots of filling so the ratio of filling to wrapper is skewed in favor of the filling.

Fill your wrappers with your filling, then roll/fold into your preferred shape and steam for 7 minutes at high pressure. Quick release.

A super easy dipping sauce is gochugang mixed with cane vinegar.

Instant Pot Pumpkin Cheesecake

This should be added to the post two down, but I can never edit posts on my device so it has to be separate.

This is basically the jar cheesecake but with pumpkin on top. You can double the labneh mixture and cook these in two batches to make 12, or save half the pumpkin mixture for another time, or make half a can of pumpkin. Personally, I freeze half the pumpkin mixture for later because then it’s reslly quick to put these together.  You can also assemble them ahead of time and leave them in the fridge till you want to cook them.

One digestive biscuit per jar, bashed to bits
1 cup labneh plus 3 tablespoons sugar plus one egg, mixed (for six jars, double if you’re making 12)
Pumpkin mixture from the back of the can or however you change it or your own recipe (for 12 jars, makes 4 cups)

Layer in the crumbs, cheesecake goo, and pumpkin mixture, dividing equally between the jars.   Cover with lids or foil.  Cook on high pressure for ten minutes and do a quick release. Cool and chill.

28 February 2018

Instant Pot Sweet or Savory Bread Pudding

This is our current breakfast.  It’s quicker to do one in the microwave, but four is quicker in the Instant Pot and requires no babysitting.  I do two sweet and two savory for me and my boys.  

One slice of bread per jar (any bread, but something hearty and possibly stale is best)
One egg per jar
3-4 tablespoons milk per jar
Cheese, sujuk, and/or vegetables, if you like 
Sugar, vanilla, spices, if you like
Salt, to taste, depending if it’s sweet or savory

Beat the milk and eggs.  Tear the bread up and put it in the jar, along with any additions you like.  Pour the milk/eggs over the bread (leave an inch or so at the top) and cover loosely with a lid or foil.  Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes on a trivet, then quick release.

26 February 2018

Instant Pot Jar Desserts

I had plans to blog more this year.  And then I broke my foot at the beginning of January.  So pretty much all I’ve done is blog about what we’ve been eating from the instant pot because I’m mostly stuck at home.  And by the time I’m back to normal, it will be getting hot and then we’ll move. So much for seeing more of Saudi before we leave. 

I still use the instant pot nearly every day.  Almost never for an entire meal, but for parts of a meal.  One of the things I like most about it is that I can make individual and customizable things for everyone in the family at the same time. Also, it’s just fun to experiment with something so I’m glad I’ve had some entertainment.  Some of these are based on microwaveable mug cakes but you can make then all at once in the pot.  It’s not worth doing for one, but nice for four.

For all of these recipes, I use 8 oz jars.  I can fit six in my 6 quart pot.


1 cup labneh
3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
3 digestive biscuits
3 jars

Mash up the digestives (or another other cookie/biscuit thing you have available, including graham crackers) and divide them between the three jars.  Combine everything else (you can use cream cheese instead) and divide between the three jars.  Cover loosely (I use the lids) and place on the trivet over a cup or so of water.  Cook at high pressure for four minutes and do a natural release for ten, or cook for ten and do a quick release. Cool and chill.

Peanut butter cake

2 T flour
2 T peanut butter
2 T milk
1 T sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp or so of vanilla

Mix everything in a jar, cover loosely, and cook as above for ten minutes, quick release.

Spice cake

2 T flour
2 T milk
1 T oil
1 T applesauce
1 T sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
Spices (up to a teaspoon total) like vanilla, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, etc.

Cook the same as the peanut butter cake

Chocolate cake

2 T flour
2 T milk
1 T oil
1 T applesauce
1 T sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1.5 T cocoa
Chocolate chips 

Cook as above.

14 February 2018

Instant Pot Sauce for Tortas Ahogados

It’s February 14th and the anniversary of the founding of Guadalajara, so tortas ahogadas are needed. I’ve started making one spicy tomato sauce rather than a mild tomato sauce and a super spicy arbol sauce.  If you want to make the arbol sauce or need a reminder about how to make all the parts of the sandwich, see this post. http://amiralace.blogspot.com/2017/03/tortas-ahogadas.html

1 kilo tomatoes, cored
1/2 cup water
1 onion, chopped
A few cloves of garlic
Oregano, maybe a teaspoon
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of cloves
Cayenne to taste 
Salt to taste

Dump everything in the pot and cook at high pressure for 15 minutes.  Do a quick release or a natural release and blend with an immersion blender.

08 February 2018

Instant Pot Dolmas

I love stuffed grape leaves, but the rest of the family doesn’t.  I prefer them without meat, but making them at home just for me is a hassle.  Until now.  This recipe takes less than thirty minutes and makes enough for one person.

1 tomato, minced
1green onion, minced (or two small ones)
1/3 cup coarse bulgur
Salt to taste
Drizzle of olive oil
Grape leaves
Juice of two lemons (1/3 cup)

Combine everything except the grape leaves and lemon juice, then use that filling to make about 15 dolmas.  Don’t roll them too tightly because the bulgur will expand. Put them in a single layer on the bottom of your instant pot, then add 1/3 cup of water and the lemon juice.  Cook on high pressure for ten minutes and do a quick release.  

02 February 2018

Instant Pot Corundas

I made these at Christmas but didn’t get around to posting the recipe.  Good thing for Candelaria.

This is basically the same recipe I posted in 2015 with a few changes for the instant pot and not living in Mexico. These are made with fresh corn leaves in Michoacán but banana leaves are a great substitute and they’re always available here.  You can find them in a decent Mexican or Asian grocery, probably frozen, but that makes them easier to work with.

Around three cups masa harina, plus water to reconstitute to one kilo of prepared masa
A few tablespoons of oil/lard/your preferred fat
A few tablespoons water/broth/your preferred liquid
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soda
Banana leaves

Combine the prepared masa plus the fat and liquid to make a spackle-like dough. Add the salt and soda too.  It really is flexible. If it’s less sticky, that’s okay.  But you don’t want it to be any more sticky than spackle.

Cut your banana leaves into two-inch wide strips.  They can be hard to work with, but it’s okay if your strips are short.  You’ll just use a couple for each blob of masa in that case.

Take a blob of masa (75 grams or so) and put it on the end of a strip of banana leaf.  Wrap the banana leaf around to make a triangular package.  Use more than one if necessary. Arrange the packages on a steamer rack in the instant pot (add a cup of water first), using two racks if possible to keep the bottom layer from getting too squished.  Just do your best.  Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes, manual release, then enjoy.

I serve these with crema (or labneh in Saudi) and tomato sauce with shredded chicken. Blend 5-6 tomatoes, a couple of garlic cloves, and a hunk of onion, then pour it into a lightly oiled skillet and fry for a couple of minutes.  Easiest sauce ever.

15 January 2018

Instant Pot Egg Cups

We nearly always eat eggs on school mornings, but the boys don’t approve of adding vegetables.  We’ve done baked cups like this which are fine but I prefer the texture of these.  You can put whatever you want in each cup (vegetables, cheese, sujuk) then pour the eggs over the whatever.  Usually I do one egg per cup I’m making, but if I want lots of vegetables, then I do one egg for two cups. I use silicone muffin liners which have turned out to be a very useful investment. You can also use small canning jars which is a good idea since they puff up.  It’s best to brush a little oil in the cups before you add any ingredients.  I tend to forget this but it’s not the end of the world. 

Just beat as many eggs as you need, then add salt and milk or cream or any ingredients everyone wants.  Grease the cups and add any individualized ingredients. My favorite is jusay. Add water to the insert, put in the trivet, and put in the cups.  Pour the eggs in the cups and cook at high pressure for five minutes and do a quick release.  It’s a little hard to move the cups when they have egg in them, so even though it’s a not easy to pour in the egg when the cups are in the insert, it’s better than moving them later.

14 January 2018

Instant Pot Jareesh

This dish is perfect for a pressure cooker.

1.5 cups jareesh (cracked wheat)
3 cups dairy (milk, cream, a mix, whatever)
2 cups chicken broth
1.5 cups yogurt
Shredded chicken, up to a cup
Salt to taste

Dump everything in the pot and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes then do a quick release (watching closely for sputtering).  It can be anywhere from runny to thick according to your taste.  Add water if it’s too thick, let it sit a bit if it’s too liquidy.  

13 January 2018

Instant Pot Yellow Fish and Rice

One reason why I waited for years to get an instant pot was that all the recipes I was seeing were for typical American food which I don’t cook much.  But then more Indian recipes started to appear and I read enough about it to realize that it’s a pot, not some super specialized thing that needs its own recipes that someone else develops.  Just use it to make what you usually make, only easier and faster.

We’ve been eating this fish for at least ten years.  It’s not difficult at all, but since I always make it with rice and these greens (http://amiralace.blogspot.com/2012/05/recipe-day-bangla-vegetables.html), it does require some fiddling in the kitchen.  So I tried cooking the fish in the insert and the rice in a separate bowl.  They turned out perfectly and it was easy to make the greens while the rest cooked, and to read a book for a while too.

About a pound of frozen fish (this is flexible)
One can coconut milk
1/2 tablespoon turmeric
Salt and cayenne to taste

Put the fish in the insert then mix everything else together and pour the sauce over.  Put the trivet that came with the pot on top of the fish, then put a cup of well-washed basmati and a cup of water in the bowl.  Cook for six minutes on high pressure, then let it naturally release for 10 minutes.  The coconut milk frothed up quite a bit when I tried this and got into the rice, but that made the rice taste even better.  

Since the fish is frozen and your coconut milk probably not hot, this one will take longer to come to pressure so the entire cooking time from when you turn on the pot to when you open the lid will be closer to thirty minutes.

12 January 2018

Instant Pot Zucchini Noodles

So I really like zucchini noodles but I don’t like them raw and I don’t like dealing with cooking them because all methods have drawbacks.  But you can steam them quickly in an instant pot. This helps a lot if you’re doing regular noodles too because some people in your family aren’t impressed with vegetable noodles. Personally, I stick with zucchini because they’re quicker to spiralize, but carrots are really good too.

Prepare as much zucchini as you need, then steam it for zero minutes.  Quick pressure release and you’re done.

11 January 2018

Instant Pot Thai Pickled Cabbage

I prefer this cabbage prepared the regular way, but it’s not easy, with letting the cabbage wilt all day then packing it into jars.  This is beyond easy and only takes a few minutes, so it’s even handier to keep this in the fridge all the time.  I use it when we do hot dogs over a fire, or with all kinds of rice and noodle dishes, or as a quick serving of vegetables.  You can also drain it and stir-fry with garlic in a bit of oil for a warm vegetable dish. The salt and sugar can be adjusted.  

1/2 large head cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 cup vinegar
1/3 cup sugar 
1 Tbsp salt

Dump everything in the pot and cook for zero minutes at high pressure.  Quick release then pull the lining out to cool.  Dump in a jar (this amount makes about enough to fill a big peanut butter jar).

10 January 2018

Instant Pot Pasta

1 pound (400-500 grams) whole wheat pasta (not fresh)
5 cups water
2/3 cup cheese
1 cup labnah
Salt to taste

Dump the water and pasta in the pot and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes.  Do a quick release (it’ll be messy so watch it), then add the cheese, labnah, and salt.

09 January 2018

Instant Pot Pomegranate Chicken

We got an Instant Pot a few weeks after, after watching sales come and go for a few years.  I really like it and use it a lot, and I’m working on making easy versions of the kind of food I like to make. I have a baked version of this that’s very good too, but I need to write down what I did for this version.

1 pound boneless skinless chicken
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup pomegranate molasses
A small drizzle of olive oil
Zaatar, maybe 1/2 Tbsp
Cayenne, maybe 3/4 tsp
Salt to taste

Mix everything except the chicken in the insert, then add the chicken and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes.  Do a quick release.  You can remove the chicken and boil the sauce down a bit before serving, or just serve as is.  This was really flavorful and very easy.  I used hot water and had preheated the pot while I was assembling it with the sauté function and it came to pressure in less than five minutes, so the entire cooking time was about 15 minutes from pushing the pressure cook button to opening the lid.  You can garnish this with mint and lots of pomegranate.

08 January 2018

Places Left to Visit in Saudi

I’m not sure which, if any, of these we can manage, but a list is helpful. There are lots of other places in the region to visit, but since we can get visas for those, I want to focus on Saudi while we’re allowed to be here.

Jubbah (stop at visitors center to open gate, 7 hours)
Other petroglyph sites in Ha’il

Qaryat al-Faw (probably closed)

Al Mithnab, Al Ghat, Al Khabra (three hours)

Tayma (too far, probably)

Empty Quarter (except no one else wants to go)

Edge of the World (to compare with our much closer and easier sites)

Shuwaymis (except I’m not sure if someone is always at the gate to let us in, search for As Shwimes, 8.5 hours)

Abha (9 hours, but there are flights, or you can stop in Al Aflaj/Layla)

Thee Ain, other places in Al Bahah (north of Abha)

07 January 2018

Dumat al-Jandal

When we were driving to Amman we stopped in Qurayyat, but on the way back we wanted to get a little further and drove on to Dumat al-Jandal.  When we went in the hotel, we saw photos of some interesting looking sites and I suddenly remembered this town is one of of the oldest in Saudi Arabia, something I'd totally forgotten when I was looking for hotel options.  It was already 10pm and we needed to get something for dinner, but we went to see if we could find the castle and old mosque first.  It was easy to find (sites in cities/towns are always the best options because they're much easier to find) and was a lot of fun to poke around.  There was an old stone village, a mosque that is attributed to Omar but the current version can't be that old, a castle, and a museum. We also, randomly, found some men cooking nutella crepes inside a restored building next to the mosque so we brought a stack back to the hotel, in addition to some shwarma and falafel some Egyptians sold us later.  We stopped by again in the morning before driving off.  

In many ways this was similar to the old section in al-Ula, but this one was a little better and the castle was cool (although al-Ula is more like a fortress which is also good).  It's very much worth a visit if you're driving by, but I can't say it's worth a nine-hour drive from Riyadh.  However, if you're coming up to go to Jubbah and other rock art sites, you really should go a little further to come here too, and there are decent hotels.

06 January 2018

Refugee Camps

Jordan may have changed a lot, but they're still hosting a huge number of refugees, far more than in 1997, and many many times more than almost any other country per capita.  We drove by two Syrian refugee camps and several Palestinian camps.  The Palestinian camps have been there for decades and decades, of course, but the Syrian camps are new.  The Zaatari camp, which we didn't drive by, is one of the largest refugee camps in the world right now.  It's near the Syrian border in an area with a climate more similar to Syria.  We drove by a small camp that the UAE built (we couldn't see anything from the road) and then the somewhat larger Al Azraq camp.  Al Azraq was built since the Zaatari camp is overcrowded, but not many refugees have wanted to live there since it's hot, dry, isolated, and there was no electricity until this past spring when the UN built a solar plant.  Now people can at least charge their cell phones (an absolute necessity for keeping in contact with family), run a fan, or keep the lights on for their children to study after dark.  We got a few low-quality photos from the road of the camp and the solar plant.

05 January 2018

Lego Donation

The primary reason for going to Jordan (and without it we probably would have gone someplace else entirely rather than driving so far when things were unsettled before we went) was to deliver Legos from a nonprofit in the US who donates Legos every Christmas.  It was definitely worth driving up for this and we're already planning to do this again next Christmas in Cairo (where we won't have to drive so far). We had a good time building with Legos with the children.