I really love cooking and trying new things, but being a busy mum these days the things I cook need to be quick, easy and nutritious, not to mention kind to my purse. When I was asked by Villa Plus to recreate a recipe from the Costa Blanca, I quickly accepted the challenge.
I struggled to come up with a suitable dish which went with my “bung it all in a pan and enjoy your holiday while it cooks” mentality. I wanted something that I could quickly prepare and just leave to cook while I could get on with the business of relaxing. Eventually I came across a recipe for Arroz al Horno. A traditional dish from Valencia which literally means oven baked rice. It’s a popular dish and each town and each family seem to have their own variation of it.
I managed to find all of the ingredients in shops in Didsbury in Manchester; going to the butcher and the greengrocer and then a deli for the last few bits. All of the ingredients could be found much more easily on a sunny Spanish market, but my meal feeding 6 comes in at just £1.66 per head.
Ingredients: (to feed 6, or 4 very generously)
1 lb of diced lean pork
3 small morcilla sausages (if you can’t find then use chorizo)
1 whole garlic bulb
500g of paella or risotto rice
2 pints of stock (I used vegetable but you could use chicken or beef)
4 medium tomatoes
1 pepper (I used yellow, but red or orange would work)
1 tin of cooked chickpeas
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
Olive oil (Spanish if you have it)
Pinch of saffron
Salt and pepper
Method: (Don’t panic, it’s easy)
- Cut the morcilla into thick slices and pour two tablespoons (approx) of olive oil into a large frying pan. Fry the diced pork and morcilla until brown.
- Slice up two tomatoes and cut the pepper into four or five thick slices and add to the pan. Throw in the whole garlic bulb.
- Add the rice to the pan, the morcilla should be giving off some delicious oils by now, stir and let the rice soak up the oil. Tip in the tin of chickpeas. Add half the stock, a pinch of saffron and a teaspoon of smoked paprika. Season generously with salt and pepper and transfer to a casserole dish. Add the remainder of the stock and stir.
- Bake in the oven with the lid on for 20 minutes at 220 degrees. After 20 minutes give it a good stir and add more stock if required.
- Artistically decorate your Arroz al Horno by pushing the garlic bulb in the middle, draping the pepper slices around it and topping with halves or the remaining two tomatoes. Put the lid back on and bake for a further 10 minutes.
- Then remove the lid and drizzle with some more olive oil, bake for a further 10 minutes, remove from the oven and serve.
The garlic bulb? The cloves should be perfectly cooked after their time in the oven. If you like you can squeeze the garlic out and mash a clove or two through your Arroz al Horno, or they’d be delicious spread on crusty bread.
It was incredibly quick and easy to make and it went down an absolute storm. I made the Arroz al Horno with pork, but recipes from the Costa Blanca region also use chicken or rabbit, some top with sliced potatoes or use different vegetables, which is how it should be, true Spanish cuisine is about using the best ingredients you have available to you at the time.