A Basque pilaff – Rice à la gachucha
I’ve got several posts backing up for lack of pictures, but this elegant dish, which well deserves its Basque description ‘gachucha’ or ‘gracious’ and which can bring a bit of summer and spice into winter, without too much trouble or expense, has already attracted the photographer’s eye!
The recipe is given in Cuisine du Terroir, by the Master-Chefs of France. It needs nothing grander than short-grained or pudding rice, which they recommend you don’t wash, to prevent it going sludgy.
Romano peppers are, incidentally, what would be used locally.
- 150 g green and/or black olives
- 2 med to lge onions
- 1/2–1 (lactose-free) chorizo sausage, hot or mild
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 250 g short-grained rice
- 100 g homemade smooth tomato sauce (see the Book) or 1–2 tbsp tomato paste
- a lge pinch of cayenne pepper or chilli powder
- 150 g smoked streaky bacon
- 500 g green and/or red peppers
If you have olives seasoned with herbs or garlic, say, you can skip the blanching. Should you have plain olives in brine, bring a small pan of water to the boil, drop the olives in, and drain as soon as the water comes back to the boil. In either case, stone and chop them roughly.
Slice the onions finely, and skin and slice the chorizo.
Heat all but 1 tbsp of the oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan or casserole and soften the onion slowly for 7–8 min. Add the rice (unwashed) and stir it in the oil until the grains become translucent. Mix in the tomato sauce or paste and pour over enough boiling water to come about 2 cm above the rice. Without stirring, add two-thirds of the olives, two-thirds of the chorizo, a little salt, and the cayenne pepper or chilli powder.
Cover tightly and cook very gently without stirring for 25 min.
Meanwhile, cut the bacon into lardons, and wash, tail, seed, and cut the peppers into strips. In the last spoonful of oil, crisp the lardons, set them aside with a slotted spoon, and soften the pepper strips in the same oil.
In a ring mould (or, failing that, a pudding basin or soufflé dish), arrange the remaining chorizo slices and olives and all the lardons around the bottom. Fill it with the cooked rice mixture and press it down evenly. Unmould on to a platter and pile up the peppers in the middle or around the rice, according to the shape of the mould.
Nothing else is required as an accompaniment.