As I mentioned in my previous post, I made sofrito for the first time on Sunday. There are many kinds of different sofritos, depending on the country as well as the chef – it can be found in Spanish, Caribbean, South American, Middle Eastern, Greek (Corfu) and Italian cooking according to Wikipedia. In Puerto Rico the mix of vegetables and herbs is used to give flavour to the traditional habichuelas (beans) which are eaten with rice, but it can also be used to flavour stews and soups.
I used a recipe that my Spanish teacher Laura gave me:
2 long green peppers (not to be confused with bell peppers, the ones you should use have a light-green colour and a softer flavour than the rounder bell peppers – they are also really tasty to just fry in lots of olive oil and eaten with meat dishes…)
6 small peppers (called pimientillo or ají dulce) (these peppers are tiny, various colours – see photo below)
2-3 garlic cloves
some leaves of cilantro or culantro*
Put all the above ingedients in a mixer / blender and make sure that everything is minced to a puré-like mix. The mix can be kept in the freezer and taken out whenever you need a spoonful or two for cooking.
I modified Laura’s recipe a little for the arroz con habichuelas since O wanted to eat chick peas on Sunday and I couldn’t find any jamón a cocinar (some kind of raw ham that you cut in small cubes and mix with the beans).
Arroz con garbanzos (Rice with chick peas)
Boil the white rice as usual, but add 4 tablespoons of oil. In Puerto Rico a short (round?) grain white rice is most common, what in Sweden we would use for rice porridge (grötris).
The chick peas / beans (white, red kidney, black – whatever you feel like)
1 can of chick peas or beans
1 cube of chicken or ham stock
1,5-2 tablespoons of sofrito
(raw ham / jamón a cocinar in cubes)
pumpkin, cut in cubes
(one small envelope of Sazón**)
1 small can of tomato purée – use only half
water – just a little to make the beans and pumpkin be able to simmer
Start with heating the oil, sofrito, stock (and ham) and then lower the temperature and add the chick peas / beans and the rest of the ingredients. Cook until the pumpkin bits are soft. Be careful to not burn the peas and add a little more water if needed.
Serve the rice and beans with chicken, or any kind of meat dish.
Voilà, you have cooked a Puerto Rican meal, or as it is called in Spanish un plato criollo!
*) Do you remember the confusion over the banana / plantain terminology in Spanish? Well, here’s another one for you: culantro and cilantro… So, cilantro is what us Europeans call coriander. Right, so what is culantro? It belongs to the same family and is also known as wild or long coriander! But, to complicate things, coriander / cilantro is known as culantro in Costa Rica (according to Nina in CR) and culantro is called culantro coyote… Nevermind, it probably is too complicated for anyone to really understand, especially as what I found in the supermarket was called cilantrillo – it looked like normal coriander to me!?
**) this is a flavour enhancer with MSG (Monosodium glutamate) which is supposed to be not good for you. I don’t cook with this usually but as we had an unopened package at home (I think O bought it thinking that it was stock), I did use it this once, however I think that I will make the recipe without it next time.