Some time ago, I received some fairly intense instruction from my lovely friend Deb Barragan on how to make Mexican rice to accompany things like burritos, enchiladas and fajitas. I think she was fed up with keep seeing potato wedges, chips or savoury rice appearing alongside such things. *chuckle*
Since having acquired the knack of Mexican rice, I discovered a brilliant recipe that included grated cheese over the lot. You can only imagine how much my menfolk approved of that.
So when I was contemplating this week's meals, I remembered that I had a complete shed load of Spanish rice in the cupboard. Immediately the "plus cheese" Mexican rice recipe came to mind and, instead of thinking of something to go alongside, I began to think about what could go inside. Bacon was rejected. I know, but still, it seemed too salty. Sausages were the next idea - and skinned sausages made into meatballs seemed perfect.
I also wanted to include some sort of vegetable matter in the mix and just happened to have a red pepper going begging. A bit like the small amount of finely sliced sandwich chorizo that was going begging from the cheddar & chorizo quiche and the end of a chorizo sausage that was also looking for a job to do. (I skinned and quartered that!). So in a funny kind of way, the recipe made itself just by thinking about what would go with what - and what I already had in the fridge!
There wasn't enough rice to say that this was risotto-like, but it did have something of a risotto quality to it as the creamy rice grains held everything together and gave it a reason to be there. The addition of the grated cheese at the end just turned what was a tasty thing into a delicious thing and gave it heaps of appeal where the menfolk were concerned. I liked it a lot. We didn't have any accompaniments with ours - we're trying to cut down on portion sizes and definitely cutting down on carbs, so garlic bread was a no:no. Personally, I think it would have been lovely with a green salad with balsamic dressing, whereas my hubby was after a bit of bread to mop up the sauce with. So go with what your menfolk and/or conscience decrees!
As for Cook's Tips, there are a couple included in the recipe. However aside from that, it is worth noting that the Harissa paste I used includes cumin in its recipe so I left that ingredient out. It's worthwhile checking yours and doing the same, if so.
Another tip involves the tinned tomatoes. For those of you in the U.K., by far and away my favourite type of tinned chopped tomatoes are from the Tarantella brand. They are organic and as such a wee bit more expensive than lots - but the flavour and lack of acidity is just streets ahead.
Well, there you are. All that remains is for me to wish you good cooking and you to make your menfolk very happy. Oh - and you may want to up the Harissa content if you and/or your menfolk are dead keen on food that makes your nose glow. *wink*
SAUSAGE & RED PEPPER MEXICAN RICE (serves 3)
1 tbsp olive oil
8 pork sausages, skinned and each separated into 4 small meatballs
90g thinly sliced chorizo, cut into ribbons or small pieces
1 red onion, chopped small
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red pepper, cored, de-seeded and diced small
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp Harissa paste
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp chicken stock powder or 1 chicken stock cube
400g tin chopped tomatoes
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
180g Spanish rice (Paella rice is good for this)
300ml hot water
150g mature cheddar cheese, grated
3-4 slices of Mexicana cheese
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley as garnish.
Begin by heating the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan or wok (one with a lid) over a high heat. Once good and hot, add the sausage meatballs and fry until a deep golden brown on at least three sides. Spoon away and discard a good two thirds of the ensuing oil from the sausages.
Add the chorizo, onion, garlic and red pepper and stir fry - it's quite important to keep the pan contents moving with occasional pauses - until the onion is softened and there is a degree of juice evident. Add 50ml of water to the pan and cover it. Continue to cook, covered, for around 5 minutes or so.
Once the peppers have begun to soften, uncover and add the oregano, Harissa, tomato puree, tomato ketchup, cumin powder (if required), chicken stock powder, chopped tomatoes and cherry tomatoes and stir gently to combine.
Reduce the heat to moderate and add the dry rice. Stir gently to combine and make sure that each grain is covered by the flavoured oil, then add the water and gradually stir it in. Replace the lid and simmer for approximately 20 minutes until the rice has cooked. You will need to remove the lid and stir the contents from time to time to prevent the underside from burning. A little sizzle is good - and to be recommended in Spain - so I tend to leave that until the last couple of stirs.
Once the rice is cooked and the liquid has reduced, turn off the heat, sprinkle the grated cheese over the rice, lay the Mexicana on top and don't stir for the next 5 minutes.
Serve onto warmed plates and garnish with the chopped parsley. You can either serve it as it is, or with bread to mop up the sauce, or even with a green salad.