Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Arroz a la Cubana

Arroz a la Cubana was one of the many dishes I learned to cook while living in Peru. Peruvians are so ridiculously passionate about their country's cuisine and most people you meet will ask you what you have tried, reeling off long lists of Peruvian dishes. As soon as you say you haven't had something, they will probably offer to take you to a restaurant to try it, or to cook it for you and if you are lucky, show you how to cook it too. This is exactly what happened with my first Arroz a la Cubana experience - I casually mentioned to one of the other teachers at school that I hadn't tried it and she marched me out of the building, stopped off at a shop to buy plantains, took me into her house and showed me how to cook it.

It was delicious! It is such a simple dish - basically rice, plantains, a fried egg and either a tomato sauce or sliced tomatoes.

The best Arroz a la Cubana I ever had was in Arequipa when Bailey and I nipped out to get breakfast before catching our bus to Colca Canyon. We stumbled across a tiny little place doing Arroz a la Cubana with amazing fresh Andean bread and a mug of coca tea for 2 soles 50 (about 50 pence!) We soon realised the establishment we were in was essentially a Peruvian version of a greasy spoon - full of builders reading the papers and filling up before a hard day's work. It was awesome.

Now that we're back in the boring old UK we do try to make a few of the foods we had while travelling to bring a bit of South America back into our lives every now and again. Arroz a la Cubana is so quick and easy to make, I've come up with a sauce that's really yummy and our local Asda always has plenty of plantains in stock.

Because the plantains need to be super ripe (my colleague who taught me to make the dish told me the skins need to be properly brown all over) we always have to buy the plantains like a week in advance which is good because we can get excited about having it again.

Yesterday I whipped us up a hearty portion each and I decided to try and recreate the amazing Arequipa experience by making myself a herbal tea to go with it... sort of like a coca tea. Sort of. Unfortunately as I have so many random teabags in my tea tin I ended up with some forest fruits flavoured tea which was not the same. Damn. And there's no way I can work out how those ace Andean breads are made. BUT I did have a nice time putting mine and Bailey's name signs from Rachel's wedding out at our usual spots at the dining table!

One of the best things about getting an Arroz a la Cubana put in front of you is immediately breaking the yolk of your fried egg and watching it drizzle down into your rice. Yum - so make sure you don't overcook your eggs!

Recipe (serves 2)

2 plantains
2 eggs
4 tomatoes
2 onions
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 portions of cooked white rice
Salt and pepper

Start by preheating the oven to 200 degrees C. Then begin cooking up your sauce. Finely chop the onions and add to a hot saucepan and allow to cook a little.

Finely chop the tomatoes up and add them to the pan with the onions, along with the cider vinegar. Leave on a medium heat and cover.

Check on your sauce at regular intervals and keep stirring to make sure it's not drying out too much or sticking.

Meanwhile, start to prepare the plantains. Peel the skin off - this can be pretty tricky, the skins are a lot more tough than bananas! Depending on how ripe the plantains are you might need to cut the skin away with a knife a little to help you get in. Once they're peeled, cut them in half lengthwise.

Add the plantains to a hot frying pan and cook over a fairly high heat.

Once the plantains are toasty on both sides and soft all the way through, put them into an oven dish and put into the oven.

Keep the frying pan where you cooked the plantains hot. Remember to keep checking your sauce. By now the tomatoes and onions should be lovely and soft. If it is, you're ready to fry the eggs. Crack both eggs into the hot pan and allow to settle for about a minute before reducing the heat.

Cover the pan with a lid and allow to cook very slowly. If you're worried they are cooking too fast turn the heat off and they will still cook with the lid on - you need that yolk to be lovely and runny.

Get the rest of the ingredients onto the plate - the sauce, rice and plantains.

Pop the fried eggs on top of the pile of rice. Serve with delicious freshly baked Andean breads and a coca tea! Ha! I wish!


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