Unlike the general notion, that I carried with me to Puerto Rico, the land is not for sea food eaters. There are enough choices for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Of those, rice and beans is the staple dish that we loved! There are two kinds of rice available – white and yellow. The yellow rice is often made with pork and pork stock; ( I have plans to try it with veggie or chicken substitute some day ) So today it is the white rice and beans with a side of toasted-roasted raw plantains that made our lunch!
The recipe i fairly simple and before you quip, like I am sure my mother would – Isn’t is rajma chawal? Well! it does look like it is rajma chawal, can’t deny that. However, it tastes very different, especially because of the lack of garam masala and the addition of the spanish spice Sazon, which can be found in any grocery store. Goya has a product. The second ingredient, which is close to rajma is the red beans. This is not kidney beans, but a medium sized red/pink beans, again a goya product. The third ingredient that is important is sofrito. A little story on that follows –
- Goya small red beans – 1 cup, soaked overnight (again, this is not kidney beans)
- Goya Sazon sachet – 1 (important)
- Cayenne pepper or Mexican or Caribbean spicy sauce and crushed black pepper- for the hotness
- Oregano – a handful chopped
- Garlic – 5 to 6 cloves finely chopped
- Green Bell pepper – 1 medium, finely chopped
- Tomatoes – 4 small, cut
- Cilantro – finely chopped – 2 Tbsps
- Onion – 1 medium finely chopped
- Olive oil – 1 Tbsp
- Start by dry frying the chopped garlic. When it start to brown lightly, pour the olive oil. Take care not to fry it on high flame and have the oil splutter.
- As the garlic adds its flavor to the oil, slide the onion and bell peppers into and the fry until soft.
- In the meantime, you may cook the red beans in the pressure cooker or microwave. Do not drain.
- To the onion,bell pepper,garlic medley add cilantro and oregano. Let simmer on a medium flame.
- As the medley softens, crush it with the ladle to make is pasty. Add the chopped tomatoes and let it cook on a lot flame for almost 15 to 20 minutes.
- This helps to retain the tomato gravy. You may opt to cool this mixture and puree it in the blender. I didn’t want to lose any gravy to the blender blade and sides, hence stuck to mashing the gravy with the ladle instead.
The gravy you thus see is sofrito, of which you can find many variations online.
The story here is, I bought the sofrito mix from goya, since I was trying for the first time and surprise surprise – I couldnt open the jar by myself. And since N wasn’t around, I decided to look up the ingredients and make it myself! so thats how i landed making my own sofrito! And it doesn’t taste bad at all 😀
- Now add the spicy sauces and the important Sazon. Actually the sazon, ingredients include cumin powder and coriander powder from the rajma dejavu.. but the other ingredients are oregano, garlic et all. May be I should try making some. For today, I added one sachet.
- Take care to cook it closed and on a low flame, to enhance the flavors and not let the gravy dry up.
- Add salt and the cooked beans along with the stock like flavor to the gravy.
- Let simmer for 15 to 20 min.
While beans gets done –
Fry regular cooking rice in a spoon of olive oil, pinch of sazon and finely chopped oregano. You can cook it in the pot, which takes longer. I simply let it cook in the rice cooker. The sides are usually yuca or cassava fry or plantain fry. I made the plantains the regular way, without any tadka, just some Cayenne and black peppers in canola oil.
Try it sometime! I am sure you will love it!