The rice dish that really hits the spot

COMFORT FOOD: Spanish rice will hit the spot on a chilly day. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

By Louise Liebenberg

MILLIONS around the world know it as Spanish rice and its variations are as endless as those of its other somewhat loftier Mediterranean rice relative, the paella.

Drawing on his Latin roots, Salvelio still favours his mother’s traditional recipe. This recipe is slightly more complex than the standard side serving of Spanish rice you would expect in a Spanish or Mexican restaurant, but  is nevertheless a cinch to prepare.

Far from it being a simple side dish, however, Salvelio’s is a meal in own right, and a great way to use up leftover bits of meat like chorizo sausage, chicken or pork.

And, while it remains a humble dish, it really hits the spot on a cold autumn or winter’s evening when cooking feels like a big bother and all you want is to dive head first into a plate of comfort food in front of the telly.

The trick is to use good-quality short rice and not the usual long-grain stuff. The arborio rice typically used in Italian risotto is ideal.

A good-quality stock is also recommended. I like making stock from scratch by boiling up chicken bones and then freezing the liquid till needed. But Ina Paarman now has “real” concentrated stock in handy little sachets which, I concede, yields a stock as close to the home-made kind as you could hope to get.

Spanish rice’s other key ingredients are onions, garlic and spices like smoked paprika or “pimenton”. Some recipes also add ingredients like tomatoes, chopped bell peppers , mushrooms and peas – use whatever you have.

An important technique for the rice is first to saute the grains in a frying pan until glistening,  then adding the stock and allowing it to simmer – untouched – for a good 30 to 35 minutes until the liquid has evaporated. As with paella, stirring is a no-no once the stock goes in.

Also, it’s worth using chicken on the bone rather than fillets as there is far more flavour in the former.

Scroll down on The Global Table below for a recipe for Salvelio’s Spanish rice – and check out the rest of the blog for other delicious, do-able recipes from all corners of the globe!

Spanish Rice – The Recipe

Serves 4 as a main course. You can also serve it as tapas, as they do in Spain, by dishing up a bit of rice on a small plate and serving it alongside a selection of other tapas.

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped; 1/2 red bell pepper and 1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped (you can fry the other halves and use to garnish the finished dish when ready to serve); 3 cloves of garlic, chopped; olive oil for frying; 1/2 punnet of mushrooms; 1 chorizo or Spanish sausage, sliced; 2 chicken thighs, meat cut into pieces and bones retained; 2 cups short-grain rice; 4 cups of chicken stock; 1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika or “pimenton”; 1/2 tsp turmeric or “borrie”; salt and black pepper to taste

Method

In a large frying pan, fry the onion and peppers in the olive oil for a while, then add the garlic and mushrooms and continue frying, followed by the chorizo and the chicken meat and bones (these add great flavour and can simply be removed when you are ready to serve).

Fry the meat a bit, then stir through the smoked paprika and turmeric. Next, add the rice and stir through thoroughly, sauteing for a bit so that the grains become glistening and golden in colour.

Now add two of the four cups of stock (it must be hot or near boiling), stir through very gently and LEAVE to cook, uncovered, over a medium heat. Allow the rice and liquid to simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, until a fair amount of the liquid has evaporated.

Now add your third cup of stock and cook for about five minutes before finally adding the last cup of stock.

Continue cooking the rice until the liquid has mostly evaporated – from the time you started adding stock it takes about 25 to 30 minutes in all.

You can keep it uncovered and on medium heat throughout – and do resist the temptation to stir it at any stage as it really doesn’t need it. As is the case with paella, you don’t want the rice to get sticky and clumpy as with risotto; with Spanish rice you want the grains to cook properly but remain intact in shape. Even if it burns or sticks a little on the base that’s also ok – it adds flavour and the sticky rice bits are my favourite part of the dish!

Once you have turned off the heat, leave the rice to rest in the pan for five to 10 minutes before serving. You can also garnish it with strips of red and yellow pepper.

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