Cooking From My Cook Books – George Calombaris’ Middle Eastern Rice with Nuts

This week in my cooking from my cook books series, I will be making Middle Eastern rice from George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan’s cook book called Your Place or Mine?


I’m pretty sure this cook book came out just after the initial success of the first season of Masterchef. If you have seen the show it’s pretty obvious that these guys are good friends and this cook book just confirms that. It is set out so that an ingredient is chosen and then they both have a recipe based around that ingredient.

There are some beautiful recipes in this book. I plan to make Gary’s confit tomatoes soon and George’s potentially tricky-looking asparagus baked in a salt crust intrigues me.

This rice dish is one of George’s recipes and he calls it Habibi Rice. He explains that he got this recipe from Shane Delia (his cook book is on my Christmas list) and that habibi means mate in Arabic so he has named it for him.

It’s absolutely delicious and reminds me a lot of that delicious rice and pasta mix that you get when you go to a Turkish restaurant. I served mine with a lamb and fig casserole that I’ll show you soon and it would pair perfectly with any spiced casserole.


You can tell this is an older book because George looks a bit different now :)



The onion does double duty both as a garnish and a flavouring in the rice.



I don’t always use whole spices but sometimes it really is worthwhile. The quick toasting really brings out the flavour but if you want to cheat a bit, feel free to use pre-ground spices.



I’m obsessed with pine nuts but they are so expensive in Singapore. I’m talking $10 SGD (approx $8.40 AUD) for a 100g packet.



Basmati would probably be best for this but any long grain rice will work. I used Thai long grain as that’s what I had in the cupboard :)



The pasta seems like a weird addition and it gets stranger when you fry it in the ghee. It adds a great taste and texture though and is actually really common thing to add to rice in the Middle East, although they would normally use something more like an orzo or risoni.



Mmmm…butter. This isn’t low fat people.





Middle Eastern Rice with Nuts – Adapted from George Calombaris’ Recipe in Your Place or Mine?

Ingredients – Serves 3-4 as a side dish

  • 1 brown onion
  • ½ tbs of coriander seeds
  • ½ tbs of cumin seeds
  • ¼ cup of pine nuts
  • ¼ cup of flaked almonds
  • ¼ cup of ghee or clarified butter
  • 25g of angel hair pasta, broken up into roughly 2 cm pieces
  • 125g (2/3 cup) of long grain rice like basmati or thai long grain
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped finely



  1. Peel the onion and then cut it into half. Slice 1 half finely and set aside for later use. Chop the other half finely.
  2. Heat a dry saucepan over low heat and once it’s hot, toast the spices until they are fragrant. This should take about 3 minutes. Once they are toasted, transfer the spices to a mortar and pestle and grind them into a fairly fine powder.
  3. Next, add the nuts to the still dry saucepan and toss them occasionally until they are a light golden colour. This should take about 2 minutes. Remove them from the pan and set aside.
  4. Increase the heat to medium and add the ghee or clarified butter to the saucepan. Once it is hot, add the broken pasta pieces and fry them until they are a dark golden brown. This should take about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped onion half, the garlic and rice to the pan and stir to coat it well. Cook until the onions start to soften and then add back the nuts and ground spices with 1½ cups of water.
  6. Bring up to a simmer and then stir to make sure no rice is stuck to the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan and cook for 10 minutes.
  7. Once the rice has been on for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest undisturbed with the lid still on for another 10 minutes.
  8. While the rice is in its final 10 minute resting stage, heat a small amount of olive oil in frying pan over medium heat. Add the reserved onion slices and cook them stirring occasionally until they are a dark, burnished colour and very fragrant. This should take around 8 minutes.
  9. Once the rice has rested, remove the lid and fluff with a fork and stir in a pinch of salt. Serve garnished with the burnished onion slices.
  10. Keeps well in the fridge overnight and also freezes and then reheats really well.


middle eastern rice



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Hi! I’m Taryn. The Wooden Spoons is a food blog and collection of wooden spoons, recipes and stories. I’m a Canberra fan-girl with a passion for all things food. I love South East Asian food, fusion food done well and slow cooked anything. I don’t get quinoa, have a mild phobia of milk touching my skin and custard from a package freaks me out. Thanks for joining me on my cooking and food adventures.

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