Let’s get our rice fix in a much lighter way: with a delicious asopao de camarones (shrimp and rice pottage).
We’re not quite half-way through 2004 yet, but now is as good a time as any to sit back and reflect on whether the good intentions expressed at the beginning of the year have turned into reality. In my case, all the resolutions from back in January, were motivated by economic, health and environmental or ethical concerns, or a combination of two or more of these.
The top item on my list of resolutions was to eat more healthily – but I can’t say I have made any significant progress on this one. I eat a reasonably healthy, mostly vegetarian diet, but I have some unhealthy and fattening indulgences that I can’t manage to cut down on, or cut out, like too much wheat – which definitely doesn’t agree with me – and a hopeless addiction to chocolate.
Did I mention an exercise regime? Who was I trying to fool? I really did have all these good intentions of starting a yoga class, but got no further than finding out where classes were being held. Over the last few years my life has become more sedentary than ever, and it really is a cause for concern.
Oh, but I have a major triumph to report. The one successful switch I have been able to make is to using dried beans, which I soak and boil. I have given up buying cans of beans altogether, and use dried beans, lentils and chickpeas nearly every day. It’s working out fine and it definitely has proved to be a money-saver and worth the extra hassle. They taste better as well.
I also resolved to use more Dominican products. I have remained true to that pledge at least where yoghurts are concerned, and haven’t bought an imported one this year.
Butter has proved more of a challenge. When imported butter disappeared from the supermarket shelves a few weeks ago the decision was made for me and I bought a tub of locally produced butter. It really is like margarine, in taste and in texture. I don’t know how they can get away with calling it butter! Maybe that would make a snappy brand name, or maybe “I can’t believe it’s not margarine” would be more appropriate. I still buy a combination of Dominican and imported cheese, depends more than anything on what’s available.
Apples have disappeared off my shopping lists and kiwi fruits only appear once in a while. The apples we get here are imported and pricey and I am beginning to realise that they are stuffed up to the eyeballs with artificial fertilizers and pesticides. How else do you explain an apple lasting for two whole months in the fridge?
Luckily I have managed to persuade my son to eat some varieties of tropical fruit other than bananas. He now loves eating pineapple and melon. Kiwi fruit is a rare treat, but I haven’t had the heart to impose an all-out ban on this delicious, vitamin-infused fruit.
My resolution about baking is faring slightly better than my pledge to exercise, but only very slightly.
The more eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that I never even mention coffee – the one vice that remains non-negotiable.
Asopao is a dish that is usually prepared for special occasions, such as birthdays. It is very cheap and can easily feed another person by just adding a little more water.
The traditional one is made with chicken, however it can be made with pork chops, pork sausages and various others meat products.
- 2 lbs of shrimp, raw and peeled (or shellfish of your preference)
- 2 1/2 cups of rice
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 2 cups of tomato sauce (or 3 tablespoons of tomato paste)
- 1/2 cup bell peppers, diced
- 1/2 cup of carrot, diced
- 1/2 cup of peas
- 1 teaspoon mashed garlic
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon of finely chopped parsley
- Juice of 1 lime
- Agrio de naranja (or hot sauce of your preference)
- Chop 1/3 of the shrimps into tiny pieces.
- In a stew pot heat the oil over very low heat.
- Add the onion, peppers, garlic and parsley. Cook and stir until the onion turns transparent.
- Add the shrimps that you chopped. Cook and stir for another minute.
- Add the tomato sauce, carrots, peas, lime juice and a tablespoon of salt and mix well.
- Add 1/2 qrt of water, increase heat to medium and bring to the boil. Add the rice and stir.
- In a separate pot boil another qrt of water, when it breaks the boil lower the heat to very low.
- Stir the rice regularly, adding water from the other pot to keep the level of liquid the same.
- Once the rice is cooked (it has double its size and split), add the remaining shrimp and cook until the shrimp become bright pink.
- Taste and season with pepper and salt to taste.
- Serve with a few slices of avocados or tostones and the agrio de naranja.
The reason why I suggest adding the shrimp at the end is because, like all seafood, it resents long cooking. The third of the shrimps you add at the beginning is enough to give this dish its flavor.