Monday 12 December 2011


The Christmas celebration in the Philippines is long and elaborate . Being predominantly Catholic, the festivities revolve around the religious significance of the occasion. Family and friends all join in to celebrate together. What better way is there to celebrate than with food.

I can't help but remember how my Mother used to be so busy and excited when cooking ahead for the big day. She was unfazed by the tremendous amount of preparation that had to be done. A few of her signature dishes were always cooked at Christmas. The phrase "cooking from the heart" just makes sense to me when I remember the way she cooked. She did not follow recipes but had a particular way of cooking each dish. I can't imagine how she knew how much ingredients to put in when she cooked in such big amounts. Her food always tastes special because she really put extra care in preparing them.

This rice dish, Arroz Valenciana, was always cooked at Christmas. It simply means rice cooked in the Valencia style (arroz means rice and Valencia is a region in Spain). Although of Spanish origin, this recipe also has Filipino influences. Aside from the Spanish ingredients, it has glutinous rice and coconut milk. The addition of these two makes the rice very fragrant. The rice grains are just a touch sticky but still separate. This results from a controlled amount of liquid. Too much and you'll end up with a heavy sticky mass.

I measured the ingredients I used here and logged the exact cooking time. This will help everyone, me included, to cook the dish the same way each time. The amount of liquid and the cooking time is crucial to making perfect rice dishes. The rest of the ingredients can be varied. Aside from being tasty, the rice grains has to be cooked to perfection_not underdone nor stodgy. Although this dish is eaten at other times, its taste and looks always spells Christmas for me.


2 tbsps. olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, cut into chunks
3 boneless chicken thighs, cut into quarters
2 pieces of chorizo, sliced
2 tbsps. tomato puree (paste)
1 c. of uncooked Thai jasmine or long grain rice
1/2 c. of uncooked glutinous rice
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. of kasubha (safflower) toasted and crushed
3 cooked sausages, cut diagonally
2 potatoes, cut into big chunks
1 c. chicken stock
1 c. of coconut milk
1/2 sweet red pepper, cut into chunks
1/3 c. sultanas or raisins
1/3 c. of frozen green peas


Soak the Jasmine and glutinous rice in water for an hour. Drain very well.

Pre-heat the oven to 300° F/ 150° C. 

Heat up a sauté pan and add the 2 tbsps. of olive oil. Sauté the garlic until light brown, then add the onions. Cook until translucent but not soft. 

Add the chicken pieces and the sliced chorizo. Stir. When the chicken meat has changed colour, add the tomato puree (paste) and the fish sauce. Stir until the tomato puree fully coats the chicken. Cook for 2 minutes. 

Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the sultanas, peppers and green peas, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat on low and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Add the sweet peppers and sultanas and stir. 

Transfer to an oven proof dish. Set this dish inside a bigger pan and add water to reach halfway up its sides. Cover both pans tightly with foil. Bake for an hour, stirring at half time. 

When done, take out of the oven and add the green peas and cover again. Return to the oven for a further 5 minutes. 

Take out of the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

This will serve 6.

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  1. This looks delicious - beautiful photos.

  2. this is exactly what i was thinking to try out this Christmas... just a quick question, i didn't seem to see how much rice the recipe requires, please let me know thanks!

  3. Sorry about the ommision, My Expat Mommy. I already added the missing details.

  4. Wow! This so good. I'd like a plate of this. Yum!

  5. This will be the second recipe of yours that I will try. I will do this for Christmas and I am sure this is a big challenge for me since I'm not really into cooking.

  6. This looks very flavorful and I just love how pretty it is! Yum.

  7. Oh wow... this dish sounds like what would happen if paella and Chinese sticky rice had a delicious baby together! :)
    My traditional holiday meals usually involve salt cod on Christmas Eve (from my Portuguese mother) and meat pies on Christmas Day (from my father), but I might just have to find an excuse to squeeze in a batch of this beautiful rice sometime during the Christmas break.
    Happy holidays to you and yours!

  8. You keep making me hungry, know that?! ruining my diet T_T

  9. Wow - this is a beautiful dish. Reminds me of a Spanish paella, but love the tropical influences and inclusion of coconut milk.. can't wait to give this a try.
    Sue :-)

  10. Your Christmas sounds like a food heaven. I wish I was one of your relatives. ;-)

  11. That looks and sounds incredible! My husband and I fell in love with this rice when we were in Spain and the idea of using coconut milk totally drives me wild! I bet that tastes phenomenal

  12. This is just gorgeous and perfect for this time of year. Love this one.

  13. your mama must be proud for recreating one of her dishes. aww i'm emo when it comes to christmas cooking just because the food that was specially cooked for us by someone who is no longer here makes us just that... emo... but in a good way.
    merry christmas to you and your family adora!

  14. Christmas cooking makes me feel so nostalgic, Malou. I am so thankful that my mother has passed on her recipes so we can still enjoy them today. I know that she's be pleased and proud wherever she may be. Happy Christmas to you and your family, too!

  15. I love this recipe, the family recipes are the best. It's so cool that it has the mix of Spanish and Filipino influences. My mom was different than your mom when it came to cooking for the holidays...we had to stay out of her way! :) You sound like me, having to remember to write down the measurments of what I'm making so I can post a recipe! I'm lucky I can get all these ingredients easily around here. I can't wait to make this! Thanks for sharing!

    Did you bake it in the banana leaf? I have some nice banana leaves in my yard I am dying to use.

  16. You are so lucky to have banana leaves at arm's reach, Lyndsey. No I didn't bake it with the leaves. You can use banana leaves to line your pan, then top the rice with leaves before covering the pan with foil. Your arroz will taste extra delicious.

  17. Christmas celebration is not complete without Arroz Valenciana with all those chorizo, and chicken. Your photo looks amazing, Adora!

  18. Wow this looks great! Could you just cover the container of food with a lid? Or is the steam from the water bath penetrating the meal?

  19. Hi Meg! Yes, the water bath steams the rice as it bakes so you do need that sheet of foil.

  20. Love love anything with rice...your arroz valenciana looks delicious and gorgeous!


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