Rice with campion greens or arroz con collejas as it’s known, is my take one of the most traditional dishes using campion in the Spain. It’s one of those cultural specialties that can be hard to pin down tp origin. If you look online using terms like arroz con collejas (collejas being the Spanish term for bladder campion or Silene vulgaris) you’ll see a number of different versions of the dish. Some might be a sort of stew, some a more dry saute like I’m sharing here.
What the original dish was, we’ll probably never know, and it probably isn’t that important. The key takeaway is that rice is cooked with campion greens, just one of the many examples of starch being combined with wild plants in European poverty cuisine. Although my campion (Silene latifolia) is different that the true bladder campion (S. vulgaris) and the Italian sculpit/stridolo (S. inflata) it’s still fine to eat, and has a bit of a sweet note after cooking, with a gentle bitterness you probably won’t even notice.
If I were to just take a handful of campion and cook it with rice, it wouldn’t seem like anything special too me. “Ok, greens and rice, but, what else?”. The chef and culinary innovator in me always wants things full of flavor, rich and well-rounded, and a simple bowl of rice and greens doesn’t seem that interesting. But, knowing that the combination is a tried and true one, with heavy documentation in specific places does a lot more than give the combination of campion and rice a name, it gives it a soul.
For my version here, I just imagined what I’d do if I wanted to make a really good, simple bowl of rice and wild greens. The biggest thing to know (and a great takeaway if you haven’t tried) is toasting the rice. Toasting the rice, or frying it in fat until golden before cooking is one of the best ways to take that simple white aquatic grass seed we all like and give it a deeper flavor. The toasted caramel notes it makes are irresistible, and a great compliment/variation to just about any rice dish you already know and love. Starting the pan out with a little smoked pork or ham is optional, but a good way to start if you’re a meat eater. If you don’t eat meat, I recommend using ghee, or keeping some good olive oil handy for serving.
Rice with Campion (Arroz con collejas)
- 4 oz ham or bacon diced small
- ¾ cup basmati or long grain rice
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
- 4-6 oz campion tips or greens
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil
- ½ cup green garlic or 1 small onion and a small clove of garlic
- 1 small tomato diced small, to garnish, optional
- Pinch of saffron optional, see note
- First, toast the rice. Put the rice in a pan and toast in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes or so until golden brown. Meanwhile, pour the water over the saffron, 1 tablespoon of the oil and ¼ teaspoon of salt in the pan you will cook the rice. When the rice is golden and toasty, add it to the pan with the water, bring to a simmer, then cook on the lowest possible heat until the rice is just done. Reserve.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the campion for a few seconds to wilt it, then rinse under cool water, squeeze dry, slice into 1 inch pieces and reserve.
- Meanwhile, render the ham or bacon in the oil, then add the green garlic or onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add the rice and campion and stir to warm through, then adjust the seasoning for salt and pepper as needed. Add ½ the tomato, garnishing with the remainder.