Cuban style moros y cristianos – the Latino rice and peas of the Caribbean.
Now it’s time to tap into my Cuban side with this wonderful dish made with brown rice. Before you cringe at the thought of using whole grain rice, let me give you the good news. My recipe will provide you with the same texture as white rice.
It took me awhile to get my family to start eating brown rice, they by default, simply gravitate towards what they’re accustomed to eating. On the other hand, I’m always looking for inventive ways to encourage healthier eating habits.
Brown rice like many whole grains is an insoluble type of fibre, unlike soluble fibre which breaks down in the digestive tract and dissolves in water, insoluble fibre remains intact, helping with the formation of stools and easing constipation. Many people complain that a diet high in wholegrain fibre can lead to excess gas and bloating, as mentioned earlier this is caused by how whole grains are digested and expelled by the body.
I personally consume grains in moderation; it thankfully has no negative impact on my IBS. When I do eat wholegrains it’s usually to boost my fibre intake, according to what my dietary needs are at the time.
Fibre is essential for the body’s digestive tract, but with that being said, there are fruits and vegetables which are rich in fibre (namely soluble to be precise).
Back to the recipe, so this dish was made using organic pre-soaked grains to ease digestion. It does take a bit more prep work, given that the rice should be rinsed and soaked for several hours or even overnight if possible. Not only does it aid digestion, it also shifts some of that excess starch. Simply add a splash of lime to the rice water and let the ingredients work their magic.
Moros y Cristianos is Spanish for black beans and rice, ‘moros’ refers to the black Muslims who invaded Spain and ‘cristianos’ meaning the Christian people. Cubans, like their English speaking Caribbean neighbours, love their rice and beans, though it is more of a side dish.
Cuban black beans and rice differs from the other English speaking islands, the flavour is more subtle and no coconut milk is included in the recipe. Cubans are huge pork eaters, they adore pork, ironically I do not eat pork, in fact my immediate family do not eat it, so I guess we are outsiders. Despite the difference in flavour from the rest of the Caribbean I can truly say Moros y Cristianos will be added to your exotic list of foods to eat.
The colour of the rice stems from the black bean liquid. I used dried beans as they are a zillion times cheaper than the canned stuff. The canned beans are certainly more convenient but work out to be expensive. Save yourself some money by purchasing a 3kg bag of beans for £3 as opposed to £1.50 per can – you do the maths.
Whatever you do, whether you use dried or canned beans – DO NOT throw away the dark water, created by the beans. You need this for colour or else you’ll end up with white rice with black beans and you don’t want that.
If it’s your first time cooking with dried beans, they need to be soaked overnight in water and cooked for almost an hour. Don’t worry if you’re fazed by all the prep work, you can always skip this step and start off with canned beans to omit some of the preparation.
Once the overnight soaking is done, it’s smooth sailing from there.
The foundation of the recipe – the essential condiments – garlic, onion, herbs etc.. need to be sautéed for 3-5 minutes.
Once the ground ingredients are sautéed it’s time to add the rice, water and beans to the large pan. Did I mention you’ll need a heavy duty non stick frying pan for this recipe?
Yes, a bit unusual but a large circumference is necessary for the rice to cook in its entirety. Furthermore, you’ll need to give the pan a frequent shake throughout cooking.
The rice should begin to absorb the water half way through the slow cooking process. Brown rice takes a longer time to cook and a larger quantity of water, so moisture is heavily relied upon to yield softness.
Around 45 minutes into the cooking, remove the frying pan lid and cover the rice with a piece of foil to retain the level of moisture without adding more water – cover with lid for double barrier.
The final result should be soft, fluffy and not sticky.
- ½ cup of dried beans (soaked overnight in 4 cups of water) or use 1 can of black beans with additional 1½ cup of water),
- 1 cup of organic brown rice (soaked in 1 tsp of lime overnight)
- 1 cup of water
- 1 yellow pepper, finely sliced
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- ½ white onion, sliced
- ¼ tsp of cumin
- 1 tsp of oregano
- 2tbsp of olive oil
- 1½ tsp of Himalayan pink salt
- 1 large bay leaf
- ¼ tsp of black pepper
- ½ cup water (if required)
- Soak both the rice and beans separately overnight.
- Discard the water from the rice and set aside.
- If using dried beans, put the water with the beans to boil and reduce to medium heat until tender. This should take 50 minutes and beans should be soft to the touch. The water from simmering will reduce to 2 cups.
- If using canned beans add them to an additional 1½ cups of water (use the water that comes with the beans)
- Sautee the onions, garlic and the remaining ingredients on medium heat in the olive oil for 3-5 minute until slightly brown.
- Add the readily available beans in water, and rice to the frying pan with the sautéed vegetables. Cover the pan and reduce heat to low. If using dried beans use the extra cup of water instead.
- Allow the rice and beans to slow cook for 1 hour, check the level of moisture throughout and shake the frying pan periodically.
- Halfway through cooking the water should have absorbed almost completely. There should be enough moisture present to cook the rice. If the rice seems too dry, add ¼ cup more of water, to replenish.
- About 45 minutes into cooking, cover the rice with the foil and allow the rice to continue to stem whilst retaining moisture for another 15 minutes. Don't forget to add the lid to the pan to act as a double barrier.
- Once the rice is finally cooked it should be soft (not sticky) and fluffy.
- Serve accordingly.
Careful not to oversaturate the rice, if adding more water as rice will be sticky and weaken the flavour.
Ensure to rinse and soak the rice overnight to soften and help aid digestion.
Cooking guideline will vary depending on the type of beans used.