Olia Hercule's Tomato Rice

This makes a great lunch with some fried chorizo on the side, or a side dish with roast chicken or lamb. Most of the time I make it, eat a portion and then use the deliberate leftovers to make the rice cake(s) on the next page, which are the real bomb. I use brown rice at home as it is more nutritious and flavoursome, but in this recipe method I include a method for using white rice, too. If you decide to use brown rice, I recommend soaking it in advance: it takes two minutes to pour some water over the rice, but then it cooks much more quickly.

Photography © Joe Woodhouse

Ingredients for Tomato Rice

  • 360g brown or white rice
  • 2 tbsp sunflower or olive oil
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp paprika (optional)
  • Sea salt

How to Make Tomato Rice

  1. If you are using brown rice and feel organised/are planning this meal in advance, pour 500ml water over it and keep it in the fridge for 4 hours or – even better – overnight. This cuts the cooking time dramatically. If this is a spur-of-the- moment thing, don’t worry, you can still use white rice or unsoaked brown rice.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a pan that you have a lid for (I use a 20cm cast-iron pan). Add the onion and cook over a medium-low heat, stirring from time to time, until it softens and starts becoming golden. About 10 minutes of cooking should get you to where you want to be, no need to caramelise too avidly here.
  3. Empty the canned tomatoes into a bowl and weigh them. If you are using white rice, add enough water to the bowl to make its total weight 700g. If you are using brown rice (soaked or unsoaked), add a little more, enough to make it up to 850g. Whisk in the paprika, if using, and a scant 2 tsp salt. Taste the liquid and add a bit more salt if needed.
  4. Now, if you used brown rice and soaked it, drain it. Add whatever rice you are using to the buttery onion, toss to coat and then add the tomato mixture. Cover with a lid and bring to a simmer. From the moment the liquid starts simmering (the lid is always on), either soaked brown or unsoaked white rice will be ready in 20–25 minutes, while unsoaked brown rice will take closer to 40–45 minutes. When it’s ready, the liquid will be absorbed and the rice will be soft to the tooth.
  5. Another thing that you may discover, especially if you keep your heat a little higher, is that the rice might develop an amazing crispy layer at the bottom, not unlike an Iranian tahdig or Spanish socarrat. 
© Speciality Cooking Supplies Limited 2024

Read our interview with Olia Hercules to learn more or shop her top picks.


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