Posted on February 04, 2012 by Charles Parson
Categories : Puerto Rican Cuisine
Hi! If you would like to try something different the next time you go camping, or just making some BBQ, you might want to give this recipe a try. It’s what I call a busy recipe, but most of the hard stuff can be done at home, except the actual lentile cooking which doesn’t take too long.
To make it easy, I have listed all the recipes needed to cook this dish. Making the achiote oil, the sofrito, and then the field cooked lentils. Yes! I know they make achoite paste you can buy in special markets, it is not the same as the home made oil.
But chef, what the heck is an achiote?
Glad you asked that question! (don’t worry folks, I talk to myself all the time). Achiote is a seed (also called annatto) this is the seed of the Bixa Orelana plant! This is a non-toxic seed that is used for it’s color, and also for it’s flavor in certain Mexican, and Caribe recipes-it is an important part of Puerto Rican cooking.
When you buy some of these seeds it’s gonna blow your socks off when you first look at them! They don’t look right! Most seeds are kinda round–not these babies! Achiote seeds look like triangles! Very weird! And they have a very deep orange/red color to them, and! They are as hard as a rock!
Don’t let these weird looking seeds worry you! You have been eating the extract of these seeds all your life! No Kidding! If you have ever eaten margarine (Oleo) you most likely have eaten some achiote! It is used as a food coloring in many prepared foods like Oleo!
How To Make Achiote Oil
In a pan (I recommend the OrGreenic pan that you can read more about here), add 1/2 cup of cooking (don’t really matter what kind) bring this oil up to medium heat, and add: 3 Tablespoons of achiote seeds, let them sizzle a bit (maybe 2 minutes) then drop the heat on the skillet to low.
Stir the seeds around in the oil, and cook for about 10 minutes on low. Remove the pan from the fire, when it has cooled-strain the red/orange colored oil into a glass container (jars are good) and place in the ice box. You have just make some achiote oil!
A sofrito is a mixture of herbs, spices, and vegetables, and sometimes meats, that have been pre-cooked, then added to a dish you are making, there are different kinds of sofrito, this one is for beans and lentils.
A large onion-chopped
2 to 3 cloves of garlic-fine minced
1 bell pepper-seeded and chopped
2 fresh jalapeno chili-seeded and chopped (or 1 fresh Anaheim chili)
1 1/2 tsp fine minced cilantro (tops only)
a light shake of Mexican oregano
a light shake of allspice
a light shake of cumin powder (a light shake is about 1/4 tsp)
2 tbl achiote oil
Heat the oil in a skillet, add the stuff above, and saute’ till the onion is clear-remove from fire and add to bean pot.
1 lb dry lentiles, doesn’t matter what color you have
6 to 7 cups chicken stock
1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped ham
salt to taste
Throw the lentiles (lentiles do not need pre-soaking)into the pot of DO, add the sofrito, the ham, and 6 cups of chicken stock, bring to a low simmer and cook/bake about 45 minutes, or until the lentils are soft, add more chicken stock if the lentils seem too dry. If you think it needs salt, adjust salt near end of cooking time.
Now serve your lentils!