This is Lesson 16 from When Sue Began to Cook, a cookbook in the Bettina cookbook series by Louise Weaver and Helen LeCron. Sue and her friend Ruth Ann are learning to cook from Sue’s mother Bettina, a 1920s master of the kitchen. If this series is new to you, click the link to be transported back to Lesson 1.
This week Sue and Ruth Ann learn to make Spanish Rice. The recipe for Spanish Rice has changed quite a bit over the past 100 years. I don’t make it now like I made it in the 1980s, even. And this recipe is older still.
Once in a while you will find a recipe for Spanish Rice in an antique periodical, but not often. Of the three 1920s cookbooks I consulted from the shelf, the recipe appeared in only one of them, and it was similar but a different version and a completely different preparation. You may find Sue’s comments and description of cooking rice a bit hilarious. I know I did. Unless you want to recreate this for historical purposes, please don’t cook rice like pasta. The rice will thank you.
Sue’s Spanish Rice Diary
We had Jean and Aunt Alice here to lunch and Mother let us serve the Spanish Rice we made this morning! And they each had two helpings of it!
Mother doesn’t believe in making company of people. She says the very nicest way of all is to have things simple and dainty and good all of the time, and then you don’t mind who happens in — you’re always ready. (But of course Mother keeps her Emergency Shelf stocked with extras, so she always knows there is plenty of food in the house.)
But to get back to my story. Mother told us this was a good time to have a lesson in table setting and she said she would make it a company meal, so that it would be more interesting. “We’ll ‘phone to Jean and Aunt Alice and see if they can’t come over.”
“But will Spanish Rice be enough to give them?” I asked.
“Spanish Rice and hot chocolate, and a good fruit salad,” said Mother. “And for dessert we’ll have some burnt sugar cake with whipped cream. That’s enough for anybody. You girls can make the Spanish Rice and set the table, and I will attend to the rest.”
Of course I knew in a general way how a table should be set, but Ruth Ann didn’t, and so Mother gave us a regular lesson on the subject and the table really did look lovely. (We used a tablecloth this time and not doilies.)
Spanish Rice from When Sue Began to Cook
- ⅔ cup rice to make 1½ cups cooked instructions for cooking in recipe
- ½ cup bacon, cut into small pieces
- 2 tbsp chopped onion we cut it very fine with the chopper in the wooden bowl
- 2 tbsp green pepper also chopped fine
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp paprika
- 2 cups tomato pulp This can be pureed tomatoes or diced tomatoes pureed in a blender or food processor, with part of the juice
- Mother said this was a good time for us to learn to make good boiled rice. (She doesn't think very many people make it right.) She had us each wash two-thirds of a cup of rice by putting it in a fine meshed sieve and holding it under the faucet till the rice was clean. Then we each put five and a third cups of boiling water in a saucepan and added the rice. (Rice ought to be cooked in eight times as much water as there is rice.) Then we added 2/3 of a level teaspoon of salt. (There ought to be a level teaspoon of salt for each cup of rice.) I forgot to say that Mother had us put the rice in the saucepan slowly so the water wouldn't stop bubbling.
- We boiled the rice (the water bubbling all the time) for twenty minutes by the clock, and stirred it with a fork every once in a while during the cooking. (A fork is better than a spoon because a spoon mashes it down and makes it mushy.)
- When the rice had cooked long enough, we poured it into a strainer and let the liquid drain off, and then we let cold water from the faucet run through the cooked rice to wash off the extra starch. Then our boiled rice was ready to be used.
- To make the Spanish Rice, we put the pieces of bacon in a frying pan (of course I mean that Ruth Ann and I each had a frying pan) and when the pan was hot we added the onion and the green pepper. We cooked it all, stirring around all the time with a fork, until the onion was brown.
- Then we added the salt, paprika, and boiled rice, and kept on cooking and stirring until the rice was light brown. Then we added the tomato pulp and cooked it together for about ten minutes more. It was quite thick by that time. Then it was ready to be poured into hot dishes and served.