This delicious recipe is for the classic Mexican arroz verde – a wonderful accompaniment to all kinds of tortilla and bean dishes. Or, if you are like me, you can make a meal of it with the addition of some protein such as fried eggs or grilled white cheese, accompanied by a few slices of avocadoes.
I like to use serrano chillies in this dish, but you may use anaheim, which are milder. Grilling the vegetables tones down their fieriness and earthiness, and gives them a smoky, succulent flavour that contrasts beautifully with the fresh, spiky grassiness of the herbs.
Over the years, I have always cooked this rice with lettuce, but I have suggested spinach as a substitute for those readers who think the idea of putting salad leaves in a cooked rice dish might be a little strange.
Today, UK has had the biggest snowfall in – according to some reports – nearly 20 years. All around me is decked out in thick tapestries of gleaming, milk-white snow. I can’t wait to get into the kitchen and cook up a spicy, hot Mexican fiesta to bring forth the promise of colour, warmth and sunshine. Serves 4 as an accompanying side dish.
8 oz/ 200g long-grain white rice
1 medium onion, trimmed, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 medium green pepper (capsicum or bell pepper), deseeded and quartered
2 green chillies, trimmed and halved
3 large Cos lettuce leaves (or a handful of spinach leaves), roughly chopped
1 oz/ 25g fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 oz/ 25g fresh coriander (cilantro)
½ to ¾ pint/ 275 to 450 ml water
Salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons corn oil
1. Pre-heat the grill on medium heat.
2. Wash the rice until the water runs clear. Soak in absolute minimum amount of cold water while you prepare the ingredients for this dish.
3. Place the onion, garlic, green pepper and chillies under the grill, turning them from time to time with tongs, until they are soft and blistered and have black patches on their surfaces.
4. Remove from the grill, and cool a little. Peel off the skin from the green pepper.
5. In a food processor, finely grind the grilled vegetables with the lettuce, parsley, and coriander. Add the water and seasoning, and whizz until you have a fairly thick sauce of pourable consistency. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. (Bear in mind that it should have a little more salt and pepper than you would like because you haven’t added the rice yet).
6. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Drain the rice thoroughly and add it to the pan. Sautee until the grains are shiny and translucent.
7. Add the green vegetable sauce to the rice, and mix well.
8. Lower the heat to minimum, cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, and cook the rice for around 20 minutes. Do not open the lid while the rice is cooking, do not disturb the rice, do not fluff it up, do nothing – just leave it be.
9. After 20 minutes or so, check to see that the grains have absorbed the sauce and indentations have appeared on the surface of the rice. If not, leave it on very low heat for a little while longer.
10. Remove from heat, and let the rice stand with the lid on for 10 minutes. Then fluff it up, and serve hot.