Whilst browsing randomly online (my favourite way to pass the time), I came across this recipe for a chile and cheese bake. It reminded me a lot of the arroz con palmito (baked rice with palm hearts and cheese) that my suegra used to make (one of Alex’s favourite meals).
The first time I tried palmito was at my sister-in-law’s despedida de soltera or bachelorette party (although this event was more like a kitchen tea). We were served a delectable, creamy, unique meal. “What is this deliciousness?!” I enquired. It turned out to be pastel de palmito, which is a bit tricky to describe – I would say it’s like a savoury, cheesy bake of palm hearts. It was a very, very good meal. I later encouraged suegra to teach me how to make it but I’m not sure what came of that…
The taste of palmito is interesting to say the least. From what I understand it comes from the core of a particular palm tree. It’s a long, white, cylindrical vegetable which tastes slightly tangy and can be used for cooking, in salads or eaten alone.
Upon our arrival to Melbourne, I discovered that it was possible to buy imported canned palm hearts here (at Casa Iberica in Fitzroy). I bought a can last year and attempted arroz con palmito (a much easier meal to make than the pastel) but it was a slight flop. After reviewing several recipes, all very high in fat and calories, I set aside my dreams of making palmito anything for a little while.
But back to the topic at hand. I found this recipe recently, and it reminded me so much of arroz con palmito that I decided I would tweak it to see what happened. And wouldn’t you know… it came out just like I wanted, with so much flavour and much less calories than the butter and cream-laden recipes I had encountered in the past. And most importantly – husband approves! This recipe is definitely going in my recipe box.
If you can’t find palm hearts, you really can substitute anything in their place – some favourites include marinated artichokes, a can of corn kernels, or two cups of chopped and lightly fried mushrooms.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ large white onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup white rice
- 3 cups water
- 1 tsp stock powder
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 1 green capsicum (bell pepper), charred, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 400g can of palm hearts, drained and sliced (sub 400g marinated artichokes, chopped)
- ¼ cup sour cream
- ½ cup cheddar, grated
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- Heat oil in large frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 3 minutes, or until transparent. Add rice and cook for about 5 minutes or until opaque.
- Add water and stock powder. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 15 minutes, or until rice is tender and cooked through. Remove from heat.
- Add capsicum and palm hearts to rice and mix through.
- Preheat grill/broiler.
- Pour half of rice mixture into a 20cm x 20cm (8in x 8in) pan. Spread half the sour cream on top, and cover with half the cheese. Pour the remaining rice mixture into the pan and cover with the remaining sour cream and cheese. Sprinkle oregano on top and place under grill for about 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and begins to brown.