A traditional way for cooking rice in the Spanish countryside.
By Luis Soto Villalta.
Arroz Campero is a traditional dish hailing from the rural regions of Spain, where it has been cooked for generations over a woodfire since the Medieval times. This rustic dish typically consists of rice cooked in a large pot along with a variety of meats and vegetables, giving it a hearty and flavorful profile.
The process of cooking over a woodfire is an art in itself. It requires a certain level of expertise and patience to cook the rice to perfection without overcooking or burning it. The woodfire adds a smoky flavor to the dish that cannot be replicated by any other cooking method.
The ingredients used vary depending on the region and personal preference. However, the most common ingredients include chicken, pork, bell peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. The meats are typically cooked first in the pot, followed by the vegetables and rice. Once everything is added, the pot is covered and left to cook over the woodfire until the rice is tender and fluffy.
The dish is often served with a simple side salad or some crusty bread. Arroz Campero is not only delicious but also incredibly filling and nutritious, making it a popular choice for large family gatherings and special occasions.
The woodfire cooking method is slowly disappearing in modern times, with many opting for more convenient and modern cooking methods. However, those who still cook it over a woodfire insist that it is the only way to achieve the authentic smoky flavor and rustic charm that has made this dish a staple of Spanish cuisine in the countryside.
Ingredients for 6 Servings
- 600g of rice.
- 1 kg of pork ribs.
- 1 chicken, cut into pieces.
- 3 onions, chopped.
- 3 tomatoes, chopped.
- 2 green bell peppers, chopped.
- 2 red bell peppers, chopped.
- 2 teaspoons of sweet paprika.
- A pinch of saffron.
- 2,4 liters of water.
- Salt and pepper.
- Olive oil.
To control the woodfire and avoid burning the rice, you can follow some tips: using well dry hard wood, using a metal grate, controlling the embers with a poker, and adding or removing wood to control the boiling, making sure the water doesn’t stop boiling but doesn’t boil excessively (150-175ºC), avoiding stirring the rice too much but making sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom.
- Start by lighting a fire with wood in a large pot or paella pan, allowing it to burn down to embers.
- Season the pork ribs and chicken with salt and pepper and brown them in the pot with some olive oil.
- Remove the meats from the pot and set them aside.
- Add the chopped onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers to the pot and cook until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned.
- Stir in the paprika and saffron and cook for a few more minutes.
- Add the rice to the pot and stir to coat it in the vegetable mixture.
- Pour in the water, and return the meats to the pot, pushing them down into the rice mixture.
- Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20-25 minutes or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. If the water dries up while the rice is still hard, you can add more water, but must be hot to avoid interrupting the boiling process.
- Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to rest for a few minutes.
- Serve hot, garnished with chopped parsley and lemon if desired.
About the Author
My mother and grandfather introduced me to professional cooking. As people say in Spain: I learned to cook from the bottom of my mother’s skirt. The tradition in the family comes from my grandfather when he founded the first restaurant of the family in 1916. I have later studied both professional cooking and hotel management. I focused my career on kitchen and accommodation management, especially in the rural environment and the wilderness.
Luis Soto Villalta
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