O prato básico Português - Arroz de tomate

There are certain staple dishes that make up any nations cuisine and no collection of Portuguese recipes would be complete without Arroz de tomate.
This is a kind of found-everywhere dish. Its not meant to be the star player,but it plays a very important role and you could easily make it your leading dish if you wanted to, serving it up as a great main course for a vegetarian meal or a simple lunch.
It is served as a side dish all over Portugal but the taste can vary significantly depending on the region and the cook.Last week It was served up to us by chef Noelia at one of my favourite restaurants in the East Algarve Jeronimo´s.
Arroz de tomato goes well with almost any entrée, from seafood to pork or chicken.What Noelia chose to serve us that  day was  "Raia Alhada" (Skate cooked with potatoes, garlic and herbs) I will cover this in a future post.
When cooked properly there is something very comforting about this dish.Its a great lunchtime choice on a cold winters day.The essence being in its simplicity. All it needs is seven basic ingredients,however you can embroider the recipe.Its is up to you but I prefer it in its stripped down form.The key to tasty and well cooked Arroz de tomato is the freshness and quality of the tomatoes and basil,preferably home grown and this was exactly how Noelia presented it to us.
I know that some cooks will use tomato paste in this dish,but Noelia certainly did not and I personally don’t like it without the distinct chunks of tomato.
If you like, you can also substitute about a quarter cup of the liquid with white wine for flavour.
Choose tomatoes that are as fresh as possible of course, but also try to find a variety that is meaty and punched full of flavour, such as a beefsteak or vine tomato. If you can’t find a decent tomato it is really better to use a good quality canned tomato instead, rather than make do with a sub-par tasteless supermarket tomato.Garnish the dish with some sprigs of fresh basil.

Arroz de tomate -tomato rice
Serves 4
225g( 8oz) Malandrinho, or risotto type rice
1 medium onion,finely chopped
! bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium tomatoes seeded and diced
1 tablespoon torn basil leaves
2 garlic cloves finely mince

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.Fry the onion and bay leaf until the onions are soft and golden.Add the garlic and cook for one more minute then add the tomatoes and basil and continue cooking on a simmer until softened,about five minutes.Add water or stock,21/2 times the volume of the rice,bring to the boil and add the rice and some Flor de sal.Simmer until tender(about 25 minutes)and taste for salt before serving.Remove the bay leaf.The rice should not be too dry.When left more on the wet side it has a certain succulence.You could even toss in chunk of butter at the end for an extra richness.


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