Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Yes We Can Mexican

Riso & Fagioli allo Messicano con Achiote & Pomodori Ciliegini
Mexican-Spiced Achiote Fried Rice & Beans with Cherry Tomatoes

Is this "an authentic Mexican dish"? No. Am I a Mexican. Double no. Have I ever been to Mexico? No, no, and thrice no! And I have probably only ever been to a Mexican restaurant 4-5 time in my life! But, does that stop me having the right to use some Mexican flavors in dishes of my own? Well I should very much hope not! Because, quite frankly... that's exactly what I did! And I liked it!

To be honest, I am not a great fan of Mexican food in general- but there is one ingredient that I do love and that is achiote, or annato as it is also known. I love the mellow, rich flavor and I love the intense color! Mostly I love the fact that there isn't anything else quite like it- and I am all about being different! Which is why I have little interest in traditional dishes- or in presenting them to you. They do already exist, they have been cooked many a time by much more able cooks than I- and have been written-up and documented many times over... so you have no need to get that served up to you again from me!

Another flavor I am really enjoying at the moment is Spanish smoked paprika powder... and it was a combination of those 2 spices, cumin, garlic, chili and a little lime juice that made this dish so delicious! Let me tell you just how simple it was to make!

I used my rice cooker to prepare the rice- 2 cups of rice to 4 of water, along with a teaspoon of cumin seed, a small bay leaf, a little crushed garlic and of course salt and pepper to season it. So the rice would be nice and tasty in itself from the get-go. I turned it on and let it boil away for 10 minutes and in the meantime prepared the other ingredients...

I had some lovely, tiny cherry tomatoes which went into the frying pan with a little olive oil, salt and sugar and  sizzled away in the background whilst I prepared a few other ingredients. A good handful of green beans, cut into bite-sized pieces, a handful of parsley finely chopped (alas I had no cilantro at home or that would have been better), a couple of mini yellow bell peppers cut into slices, and a finely chopped Spring onion. Not much really- but plenty to make this great, satisfying vegetarian dish!

At that point, the rice had been boiling for 10 minutes and was close to being ready... and that was the right time to add the green beans and turn of the rice cooker. There was enough residual heat and steam in there to finish of the rice and cook the beans until they were ready to go into the pan... and that would be happening soon- in just 5 minutes time to be precise!

After just 4-5 minutes in the frying pan, the tomatoes were nicely caramelized and brown and could come out and be set to one side. As soon as they were out of the pan, in went the yellow pepper, and 2-3 minutes later, in went a teaspoon of achiote paste and the juice of half a lime. By that time, the rice and beans were done and could be added to the frying pan, along with a little olive oil, the chopped onion and the parsley. 

With the heat turned up high, I tossed the rice and blended it in with the achiote, frying it for 4-5 minutes until it had a nice sheen and was beginning to crisp up here and there... and basically that was it! A simple dish for sure- but sometimes that is just what the doctor ordered! I added the cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of small and tender parsley leaves before serving- and thoroughly enjoyed the mix of flavors, colors and textures- and a generous sprinkle of that smokey paprika powder was the finishing touch that really made this awesome. And I do hope you get to try this for yourselves sometime! Either as a simple main dish or an extravagant side, it is bound to please! You have my word on it!

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