to obtain the yellow colour, it is traditionally made with achiote or annato (oil) but for the sabbath my friend's family always used saffron — the more expensive and luxurious of the two, i was told. served alongside a chicken dish of some sort, this rice was always made with some of the broth from the chicken soup and, of course, fresh peas. today, for convenience's sake, frozen peas are used.
to read more about the jews of cuba, here is a very interesting short history. while most have already left the country, there is still a community living there whose origins are both ashkenazi and sephardi (turkish). another link in spanish is here and one more in english. interestingly, canadian jewish organizations have provided much help over the years to the jewish community in cuba [where i imagine american ones could not easily do so due to cuban-u.s. political relations].
cuban yellow rice
you need to use a rice which will not get "mushy" or soft for this dish. the best choice is a parboiled rice — otherwise known as converted. its grains are straw coloured or slightly yellowish due to its processing. the other ingredient you will need is saffron [or annato seed oil].
1 c parboiled rice (like uncle ben's type)
1 small red pepper
1 small onion
3 small cloves garlic
2 - 3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 c frozen peas
1/8 tsp saffron, ground or 2 tbsp annato oil
3 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 - 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 c chicken or vegetable stock, or water
*notes before starting:
- if using salted stock or bouillon cubes, use less salt;
- you can replace red pepper with green pepper;
- if you like spicy rice, add jalapeño pepper or use part hot paprika;
- you can add a few diced mushrooms;
- you can use a small amount of turmeric to colour the rice instead of saffron or annato;
- if you are doubling the recipe, do not double the water for the saffron [only the saffron].
measure out the spices. in a separate small dish, place the ground saffron and the 3 tbsp boiling water to steep. it will turn a deep yellow. be careful, it stains.
measure out the rice and set it aside.
chop the onion, garlic and red pepper into small dice. add 2 - 3 tbsp oil to a pan and fry it for 10 minutes over medium low heat or until the onion softens and becomes translucent.
add the rice and cook another 3 to 4 minutes until the rice becomes translucent and more brittle.
carefully add the spices and the saffron (or annato oil) and cook another 30 seconds to 1 minute until the saffron water, if using, is absorbed and the rice turns a deep yellow.
add the water and the frozen peas and mix well. place a lid on the pan and cook it for 20 minutes over very low heat.
let the rice rest for 10 to 15 minutes undisturbed, taking it off the heat. afterwards, remove the lid and carefully redistribute the rice to fluff it up.