It’s amazing how a single grain can be the staple of so many cultures, which otherwise wouldn’t be similar at all. I’m talking about rice, which plays an important role in food from Japan, China, Spain, etc. The Spanish conquerors brought it to South America and it became a staple in our countries, too.
The recipe today is another weekday housewife classic. You won’t find it in any fancy restaurant, but you will in any eatery that offers cheap fixed-priced menus for office workers. It features the almighty all-purpose filling that appeared in the recipe for Pastel de choclo. The exact translation of the name is “covered rice”, which doesn’t make much sense because it’s actually the rice which covers the filling. Anyway, it consists in a layer of filling sandwiched between two layers of rice. To serve it, you must use a bowl to place the layers in and then invert it on a plate.
In theory you can use any kind of rice (any length of grain, any level of starchiness, brown or white, etc), but to make it typically Peruvian it’d have to be medium grain white rice cooked with sautéed garlic and salt. It shouldn’t be al dente, nor overcooked, and the grains should not stick together. That’s what we call “arroz graneado”. This time I used basmati rice, which is what I had in the cupboard and it worked very well.
99.9% of the times the filling is made with ground beef. My sister, the one who lives in Lima and is extremely lazy, uses canned tuna. I’ve seen a version with chorizo, too. So, basically, any kind of meat will do (I normally use grass-fed beef and sometimes kangaroo).
A final note: I mention just “oil” in the recipe because the kind of fat you use it’s entirely up to you . In this case I used olive oil for the rice and ghee for the filling.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 tablespoon oil
4 cloves garlic
2 cups rice
3 cups water
3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
600 gr ground beef
1 large red onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon powdered chilli (ají amarillo if you have it)
1 cup beef/vegetable stock
salt and pepper
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup black olives
Peel the four garlic cloves and remove the germ (that green stem that grows in the middle). Smash the cloves with the blade of your knife until you have a paste, or mince it finely.
Heat the tablespoon of oil over low heat in a small to medium pot. Add the garlic and sautée briefly (without letting it brown).
Add the rice and stir it to coat it with the oil.
Add water and salt, cover the pot, raise the heat, bring to a boil, and lower to a simmer. Cook until done (when all the water has been absorbed).
While the rice cooks, take the beef out of the fridge to bring it as close as possible to room temperature.
Peel, remove germs and finely chop the onion and remaining garlic cloves.
Quarter the olives.
Boil the egg and slice in as many wedges as people you’ll be feeding.
Heat the remaining oil over medium to high heat in a frying pan. Add the ground beef and brown.
Reserve beef in a bowl, set the heat on low, wait until your pan cools down a bit, and add the onion and garlic. Stir to deglaze the pan. Add powdered chilli. Cook for 10 minutes.
Add the beef and stock to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, then season with salt and pepper.
Add raisins and olives.
To assemble, in a small bowl (a dessert bowl, for example) spread a layer of rice and press it with the back of a spoon. Place an egg wedge in the middle. Spread a layer of filling on top and cover with another layer of rice. Place a plate on top of the bowl and invert carefully.
Serve with the salad of your choice.