I love rice. It is an ingredient I always have in the larder. It's quick, healthy and very versatile. Growing up, my mam would have used rice as a side dish at least 3 or 4 times a week. The first rice plants arrived with the Spaniards in the 1520's and the seeds quickly took to the warm, moist climate of the States of Veracruz and Colima, both situated along the Golf of Mexico. Nowadays, rice is served on every table in Mexico, it has become part of our traditions and cuisine, so naturally, I use it a lot. The other half loves me when I make a big pot of this Mexican Red Rice and there's loads of leftovers for him to eat thoughout the day in small portions he calls 'snacks', (please don't ask, I often think I should have titled this blog: What my tall, slim, hollowed leg Irish man eats!).
In Mexico we use short-grain rice, but I've used the long-grain rice commonly available in Ireland as well as the bastami rice variety with great results so feel free to use either. There are tons and tons of recipes online and in books, but I use my mam's with a little bit of tweaking as it is by far my favourite; it is a combination of Red Rice and Garden Rice. When I first published this recipe a reader wrote to me to say, she'd made it and it was delcious, but could I suggest what to do with the inmmense amout of leftover rice she had! I realised then that my recipe made a lot of rice and if the reader was not rice crazy like my other half is, this was going to be too much rice for the regular household, so reader beware, half the recipe would be enough for 2-3 people. Note on water: Use 2 cups of water per every cup of rice!!
Start by putting half the water, the tomatoes, stock cubes, garlic, black pepper and salt in a blender or food processor and blitz until you have a smooth tomato sauce. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a deep non-stick pan with a lid. When the oil is warm, add the onion slices, the bell pepper and the chilli and gently fry for a minute until the onion starts to soften. Add the rice and fry it gently stirring frequently until the rice becomes translucent, two minutes approximately. The aromas coming from the pan should be delicious.
As soon as the rice is translucent and shiny, pour the contents of the blender and the reminder of the hot water. Follow immediately by the carrot, sweet corn and garden peas. Stir the rice so all ingredients are incorporated, taste to adjust seasoning and cover the pan. Lower the heat to low and let the rice cook slowly for 20 minutes or until all the water is all absorbed. Check it after 15 minutes in case it needs extra water to finish off. I always taste it and stick a spoon to check that it is not sticking to the bottom of the pot, if you notice it is, stir the rice gently, lower the heat again and let it finish off cooking. Cook the last five minutes uncovered to help the rice dry out.
Serve the rice hot as a side dish, it is truly tasty! I love it with mole or mole tacos, chiles rellenos, with some Yucatan Syle Steam Chicken, or as Alan likes it, as a stand alone dish. It freezes really well and it keeps in the fridge covered for a week. Excellent for pack lunches if a microwave for heating it is available. I love it with slices of banana on top, I know, I know, it sounds grouse but don't mock me until you've tried it!