In Colombian food traditions, the consumption of rice is something essential. This is even more evident in Medellin since Antioquian families keep very well their culinary heritage. When I was a child, older women in my family used to share with me the most intimate and best kept secrets, proper of an ideal housewife. They gave me the keys and precise recipes to make me more efficient in my future home and tended to repeat emphatically: “keep rice cooked and the rest will be easy”.
They were desperately trying to get me into the traditions, but I was hanging some feminist ideas, and the last thing I wanted was to end consumed in a family kitchen. When I grew up, found myself locked struggling for independence and trying to prove my capabilities, then I realized something: food is a matter of survival, sometimes of pleasure, and has little to do with the power battle between genders.
At times I felt powerless to have to settle down with nutritional offers from normal restaurants or with meals made quickly and reluctantly, that the lady who was working with me around the house, cooked for me. The point is that, analyzing the situation, I decided to leave my feminist pride aside and return to the kitchen. Apron in hand and with some vague memories in my mind, I remembered my grandmother, mother, sister and aunt saying the famous phrase: “keep rice cooked and the rest will be easy”. That is why I took the initiative to bring to practice culinary lessons from my mentors ( now I think they should be proud to see that all the time they spent with me was not wasted).
My unconscious mind was doing its job and almost without realizing it, rice was the first thing I used put on the stove. I usually felt discouraged to see how this cereal was overshadowed by the other foods on the plate. The rice was something like an unappetizing white mass and nothing striking, then, I was determined to enhance its flavor and presentation. That was how my creative genius was gradually emerging, now applied to the kitchen. The smells from onion, garlic and paprika floating in the bubbling butter used to give my cooking an appearance of homemade stew, that mixed with rice happened to complement the attractive mix of colours, flavors coming from other ingredients.
Some of my newest preparations were very appealing for their nice smell, but some others were eaten by my family just because they were very hungry, because they felt moved by my efforts, or just for pity. It’s been so long since those first attempts, and the best thing is that I have to admit that actually the ladies were right: rice is a good starting point to prepare any meal, and it is a good base to compose something delicious and nutritionally balanced.
Rice is widely used combined with vegetables in weight loss diets. It is a versatile cereal and it can be prepared in so many recipes that can be consumed daily without repeating. In my case, I delight myself mixing rice with some varieties of meat: tuna, red meats, cold meats, seafood and my favourite: the chicken rice. Some time ago the family events organization was on the same family, we did not hire a chef or catering service. Everything was done at home, and parties dish par excellence was the chicken rice, an economic preparation that yields enough for many, and it is very tasty, but very delicate in its handling and storage. Here is the recipe I learned from my mother:
RICE AND CHICKEN
4 People servings
1 cup of white cooked rice
1 large precooked and shredded chicken breast
½ cup precooked chopped green peas
½ cup chopped and precooked green beans
½ cup chopped and precooked carrot
2 large garlic cloves
1 large red onion or Welsh onion
1 piece of paprika
2 beef bouillon paste cubes
2 tablespoons oil or butter
Saute the garlic, onion and paprika in oil and make a stew.
Add the chicken breast, vegetables and beef broth. You can add other seasonings or spices that are to your taste (garlic salt and / or onions, a little soy sauce, parsley, etc..).
Let saute a little more and mix with the rice.
You can cover the rice and let simmer 5 minutes.
This dish can be served hot or cold and has the great advantage that it requires no companions, it is very balanced from all the ingredients involved in its preparation.
The great variety that can be found in this meal makes it tasty a delightful to all senses: smell, taste, texture and presentation, so I advise to prepare more than enough, because they surely will want to repeat over.