My mother made this easy rice recipe for us often, and it fed our family of 5, well, with leftovers. Her mother made this dish when she was young, for their family of 6, again, with leftovers (although not as much of course). I always thought of it as just a good and easy dish to make for a lot of people until I grew up and started buying my own groceries. Then I learned how much it costs to feed a lot of people, we enjoy entertaining, and I realized there was a reason this dish made an appearance frequently in my parents’ one-income household (when we were young), and my grandparents’ one-income business-owner household… it’s cheap! Maybe not quite as inexpensive as some other dishes, but given that it feeds 8 at just under $1/pp depending on ingredient cost in your area, I’d say that’s pretty budget friendly.
Honestly, the most expensive ingredient in this dish is probably the pine nuts, although that wasn’t always the case. Back when I was a kid, the “foodie” movement hadn’t really taken off and pine nuts were rather inexpensive. Browned butter wasn’t something I’d ever heard of. And this dish was just a simple and easy, prepare in advance or throw together with stuff in the pantry, way to feed a family or whip up something for a potluck. There was nothing fancy about it and the measurements were eyeballed by my mom who cooked with three active kids running around the house. When we got older, we were allowed to help stir the pine nuts or the meat and vegetable mixture, or ladle the layers into the casserole dish. It was a big deal to get to stir the nuts because brown butter toasted nuts are amazing, and if you were lucky enough to help, you were able to sneak a few to eat. My mother would always catch us of course, and tell us about her oldest brother, may he rest in peace, who would sneak into the kitchen before dinner and use a spoon to scrape off ALL the pine nuts, much to the dismay of his brother and sisters! My sisters and I always promised we would never, and we didn’t, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t want to. 😉
If pine nuts are too expensive in your area, feel free to substitute sliced or slivered almonds – my mother often would when she was making two trays for big group functions or if that’s what she happened to have in the pantry instead. You may also swap out the frozen vegetables for your choice of fresh, or the ground beef for chicken/turkey/soy crumbles/whatever, but because this dish is so close to my heart for so many reasons, I try not to change it too much.
When it’s done, I see my mom at 32/33, me at 7, with sisters at 4 and 1, in an apartment kitchen with pet guppies swimming on the counter, setting the table, laughing, waiting for my dad to get home for dinner, and enjoying being together. And then I wonder if the Godfather and I shouldn’t have started with kids earlier to have a big family (like 5-6 kids), and then I remember God has a plan, and families of all sizes are beautiful, and I have leftovers for like 2 1/2 more meals, so yay. 😉
- 2 c long grain rice
- 4 c broth of your choice
- 1-1.5 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 lb ground beef
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 16 oz frozen mixed vegetables
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 c pine nuts or slivered almonds
- salt and pepper to taste
- Begin by bringing the broth to a boil. Add the curry powder and rice, stir. Cover and reduce the heat to medium low and cook 12-15 minutes until the rice has absorbed all the broth and is tender. Stir the salt into the rice and set aside.
- Make the filling by heating the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the ground beef and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently to break up, until cooked through and slightly browned.
- Use a slotted spoon to scoop the beef into a bowl.
- In the same pan, add the frozen vegetables. Cook until the vegetables have thawed and the liquid has evaporated.
- Stir the ground beef into the vegetables, add salt and a dash of pepper to taste, and set aside.
- In an 11x18" glass baking dish, layer 1/2 of the cooked rice. Pour the beef and vegetable mixture over the rice, then cover with the other half of the rice to make the top layer. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the pine nuts or almond slivers and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes until the nuts are a light golden brown. Remove from the heat immediately and pour over the rice dish (butter and all), using a spoon or offset spatula to evenly distribute the nuts.
- Serve warm!
- Feel free to substitute ground chicken, turkey, tofu crumbles or whatever other protein for the ground beef.
- This dish actually gets better as it sits, so feel free to make it in advance and let it rest up to a day in the fridge before serving. Reheat by covering it tightly in foil and placing in a 350 F oven for 15 minutes or so.