“Sometimes the greatest memories are made in the most unlikely of places, further proof that spontaneity is more rewarding than a meticulously planned life.” -J.A. Redmerski, The Edge of Always
I would definitely describe myself as a person who is organized and enjoys the process of planning. Whether it’s planning an event or just my schedule for the week – I like to know what’s ahead of me and how I can best prepare for it. That being said, life isn’t meant to be planned down to each minute. As great as it is to be organized, I find that I need to check in every now and then to make sure I remain open to other possibilities or opportunities that arise, especially the ones I didn’t plan.
When my husband and I went to Africa I studied books, maps and travel guides and by the time we were on the plane all of them were highlighted and practically memorized. Planning the trip and having an itinerary enabled us to have great experiences, but I think some of my favorite moments were the ones that we didn’t plan: a sunset cruise on the Indian Ocean, getting lost in Stone Town and enjoying every minute of it, or the time we sat outside the family home in Chukwani, just the two of us. We were watching the chickens in the yard (I may have been chasing after them) and we were listening to Pandora radio on my phone. The first song we danced to at our wedding started playing, and we slow danced in the yard and laughed at the idea that were so incredibly far from home.
In 2016, our wedding and our honeymoon were the biggest celebrations we had. As special as they were, the small moments leading up to them were just as important. The time we spent planning, the time we let things fall into place, the time we took for ourselves, and the time we spent with family all contributed to our success individually and as a couple. Moving forward into the New Year, I want to remember to be open in the present moment and appreciate the time we spend with our family.
When we first arrived in Zanzibar, the first meal we ate (other than street corn) was a huge serving of Beef Pilaf. Since we’ve been back I’ve tried to re-create the recipe as best as I can. This is definitely one I want to save in my recipe journal for years to come. This recipe makes a huge serving and it’s perfect for family gatherings or holidays such as Ramadan or Eid.
- Yield: 10-12 servings
Beef & Rice Pilaf + Africa Trip Part II
Adapted from, Natasha's Kitchen
- Beef Chuck - 1 & 1/3 lbs, chopped & trimmed of excess fat
- Canola Oil - 1/3 cup
- Onions - 2 medium sized, finely chopped
- Carrots - 3 medium sized, cut into matchsticks
- Salt - 1 & 1/2 teaspoons
- Pepper - 2 teaspoons
- Paprika - 1 teaspoon
- Cumin - 1 teaspoon
- Bay Leaves - 3-4
- Long Grain Basmati Rice - 3 cups
- Garlic - 1 full head
- Coriander - 1 teaspoon
- Preheat a dutch oven (or large soup pot) to high heat. Preheating the pan first allows the meat to sear over high heat otherwise the juices will run out and the meat will become dry.
- Stir in the canola oil and once it is hot, add the chopped beef chuck and saute for seven to 10 minutes (uncovered) until the meat is browned, stirring every minute or so.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the chopped onions, carrots, spices and bay leaves. Continue to cook over medium heat until the carrots are soft (5-10 minutes).
- Add 1 & 3/4 cups hot water, cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 45 minutes until the meat is tender.
- While the meat is cooking, rinse the rice under water until it runs clear. Rinsing the rice gets rid of the starch so the rice won't be sticky. I usually rinse the rice five or six times until the water runs clear.
- Spread rice over the meat and add four cups of hot water. Bring rice to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce heat to medium and let the mixture cook uncovered until most of the water is absorbed (approximately 10-15 minutes).
- Cut off the head of garlic to expose the cloves and put cut side down into the center of the rice and sprinkle the 1 teaspoon coriander over the rice.
- Using a wooden spoon, poke 7-10 holes through the rice to allow steam to escape to the surface. Reduce the heat to low, then cover and cook an additional 15 minutes until the rice is cooked through. Remove the garlic head and bay leaves and stir gently to combine.
- Because I love garlic and can never get enough, I mince the garlic cloves and stir them to them to mixture.
- Serve warm with mandazi for a perfect East African meal.