What’s your idea of comfort food?
My mum’s lasagne is my all-time favourite dinner. However, after many failed attempts, I’ve come to accept that my lasagne will never be as good as hers, so I’m only ever going to be able to eat it in when I’m at home.
So when it comes to cooking comfort food, I turn to this pork and tomato rice dish instead!
It’s a dish that feels like Spain and sunshine and happiness. The pork steaks are flash fried with onion, garlic and punchy green pepper, then simmered gently in a rich tomato sauce flavoured with oregano and rosemary.
The recipe is based on arroz a la cubana (Cuban rice), which is a really popular dish across most Spanish-speaking countries. It’s basically just a bowl of white rice, topped with dollops of home-made tomato sauce and a fried egg. Apparently it’s also traditional to serve it with a fried banana, but we always skipped that one!
It’s something I have really vivid memories of eating at school. Spanish schools don’t do lunch breaks like English school. It’s totally normal for people to have lunch at 3pm, so we just used to eat when we got home. And as we used to live directly opposite the school, staying for lunch was always a bit of a treat for us (which, now that I think about it, is kind of weird).
The only time we’d stay for lunch was if mum and dad were busy with work and couldn’t pick us up… OR if something really yummy was on the menu and I’d managed to convince mum to treat us.
Sure, in hindsight it is a bit odd, but Spanish school lunches are not like school lunches in the UK. We used to get a full three course dinner, usually starting with a soup or salad, followed by a nutritious main course, and finished with fruit (except for Fridays which were yoghurt or ice cream days!).
They’d send home a menu for each month, and I’d sit and analyse which days were going to be delicious, and which days I should try and avoid at all costs. I used to have actual nightmares about the lentil and chickpea days, but arroz a la cubana was one of my all-time favourites, and I’m so glad I’ve finally got round to make my own twisted version of it!
So, to the kitchen!
I’ve always kept a packet of Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice® in the cupboard, ever since my uni days. They’re just so convenient! We don’t have a microwave anymore, but all I have to do is add a few tablespoons of water to a pan, stir it all in, and it’s ready to go in just three minutes. Simple.
In this recipe, I cook the rice in the tomato sauce itself, which helps add a touch of creaminess. I use a mix of fresh and tinned tomatoes, and red peppers to add a little bit of sweetness. Make sure you also add the sugar I’ve specified though, as you’ll need it to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes.
I’m not a fan of green peppers, and I usually avoid cooking with them to be honest, but their strong punchy flavour are absolutely essential to this recipe. They’re what gives the sauce that lovely, smokey, Spanish depth, helped along by the generous amounts of garlic, oregano and rosemary.
I’ve used pork steaks, because I think it works particularly well with the smokey sauce, but boneless chicken thighs would work too. And if you’re vegetarian or vegan, try adding some chunks of roasted aubergine instead!
Peel and chop the onion. Peel and crush the garlic. Chop and dice the tomatoes. Deseed and slice the peppers finely. Slice the pork into strips.
Put a deep pan on a high heat and add the tbsp of oil. Once it’s hot, put the onion in the pan and fry gently for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for another minute.
Throw the pork in the pan. Season with a generous pinch of salt and some black pepper, and brown the meat for 3-5 minutes.
Turn the heat down to medium. Add the fresh tomatoes and peppers to the pan, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and fry for 3-5 minutes, until the peppers soften a bit.
Pour in the tin of chopped tomatoes, and stir in the water, frozen peas, oregano, rosemary, sugar, another pinch of salt, and some more black pepper. Let the tomato sauce simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down and the peas are tender. Check the seasoning and adjust if needed.
Break up the long grain Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice® inside the packet, then rip off the top and stir it into the sauce. Cook through for 3 minutes, then stir in the lemon juice and serve immediately.
*This post is sponsored by Uncle Ben’s.
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