Creamy Cilantro Rice

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I love risotto but so far, all my attempts at making it have not been entirely satisfactory. By which I mean the rice did not end up creamy enough, the entire affair had a bit too much bite in it and I spilled a ladle of stock on myself and got burned. On the whole, it’s a process that requires patience and dedication which I’m sure I will acquire in spades someday. But till then, I have discovered a cheat – a shameless, should-I-even-be-talking-about-this cheat that will probably send any Italian chef worth his salt into palpitations. I called it cilantro rice, to avoid any accusations or unfair comparisons but it’s basically a poor-chef’s-version of risotto.

The base, of course, is white rice (I used Basmati – poor, poor Italian chefs) but I pre-steamed it until it was about three minutes away from being done to perfection. Then, it is topped with an explosion of flavors – fresh, minced cilantro, which adds a herby brightness; pureed spinach, lending it an earthy tone; heaps of garlic, because I am obsessed like that; white onion for sharpness; judicious sprinklings of pepper; a bit of stock for body and cream because – well, cream.

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All of this flavorful goodness is stirred in through the steaming, fluffy rice and then cooked in a covered pot for about five minutes. This is about the right amount of time – it all comes together nicely but the rice isn’t overcooked.

I sort of loosely based this recipe on a version of mint rice my grandmother makes, but keeping in mind the consistency of risotto. So I was pretty surprised that it vaguely resembles an actual Mexican dish called arroz verde. The texture is pretty different, but it looks absolutely delicious so this is probably worth a shot as well.

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Ingredients

1 cup white rice

500 g spinach

200 g cilantro

1 white onion, chopped finely

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 cup cream

1/2 cup vegetable stock

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Steam the rice for about 10-15 minutes. It should be just a couple of minutes away from being fully cooked, with a slight bite.

Finely chop the white onion and mince the cloves of garlic. Puree the spinach and cilantro together and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large, shallow pan and sautee the garlic and red pepper flakes until slightly brown. Add the onion and cook till it turns soft.

Add the pureed spinach and cilantro, cover and let it cook for 4-5 minutes. Then add the rice and the stock. Stir for about 3-4 minutes, until the rice absorbs the stock and is fully cooked. Then add the cream, salt and pepper and sautee for another 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

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