Arròs Brut

arròs brut

Arròs Brut (dirty rice) is a soupy rice dish which comes from Mallorca. It gets it’s name by nature of the dirty looking broth, made dark by mixing in a small amount of ground up liver. This is fairly common in picadas from els Països Catalans (the Catalan speaking countries). It is said, that one has to wash one’s feet in it, to create a really good dirty version! This wet, stew like, rice dish is quite similar to Arroz Caldoso, both of which are almost certainly a precursor to Paella, which is a relatively modern dish, invented in the 18th Century. These rice dishes are definitely related to Jambalaya and Dirty Rice from Louisiana, as the state was part of New Spain from 1762 – 1800 and continued to be administered by the Spanish for 3 years when it reverted back to the French, prior to the Louisiana Purchase.

The inclusion of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in the picada (thickener and flavour enhancer) suggests a Moorish origin, as does the saffron in the sauce. The use of liver in the Arròs Brut makes it a country dish, often cooked with rabbit, hare, snails, etc.  My recipe is definitely more towny, using pork and chicken, but you will also find recipes for Arròs Brut with lobster, squid, cuttlefish and mussels (the dirtiness in the seafood version is achieved with dried cuttlefish ink)

Recepta d’Arròs Brut (serves 4):

300g pork ribs
300g chicken thighs
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (chopped)
3 large tomatoes (grated)
1 red pepper (chopped)
6 or 7 mushrooms (preferably níscalos if you can get them)
a handful of green beans – haricots vert/judías verdes (chopped)
a large handful of fresh peas
300g (2 cups) Bomba rice
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera picante
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
a large pinch saffron
a handful of parsley (chopped) – save a little as dressing
1 litre home made chicken stock
a large glass dry white wine
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

ñora pepper

Ñora peppers, used here in the picada, are a small round mild red pepper. They are dried and used rehydrated – you pierce them and soak them overnight, or for 15 minutes in boiling water. Remove the stems and seeds. They can be ground up with a mortar and pestle (or blender) and in some recipes the soft inner flesh is scraped out and added directly to a sauce. Ñora peppers are a very important ingredient in the Catalan Salsa Romesco (which is very good with fish) and are ground up to make pimentón de Murcia.


a fried chicken liver
a ñora pepper
a pinch cinnamon
a pinch grated nutmeg
2 cloves
coarse sea salt and cracked black pepper
3 or 4 large spoonfuls of the cooking liquid


Season the chicken thighs and brown in plenty of hot olive oil. Reserve to a plate.

costillas de cerdo y hígado

Next do the same with the pork ribs and a chicken liver. The liver will only need a couple of minutes cooking time.


Using the same pan, turn the heat down and sofregir (poach) the onion until it becomes soft and sticky. Add more olive oil if necesary.


Mix in the chopped garlic and then grate on 3 medium tomatoes (cut them in half, shred the wet side and throw away the skin). Allow to bubble away for 5 – 10 minutes and thicken.

pimiento rojo

Stir in the chopped red pepper, followed by the mushrooms. Ideally use níscalos (saffron milk caps) or other country mushrooms.

pimentón d la vera

Sprinkle on the pimentón.


Return the meat to the cazuela (but not the liver) and pour on 1 litre of chicken stock, along with a large glass of dry white wine.

judías verdes y perejil

Add the green beans, a large handful of chopped parsley and 2 bay leaves.


Using a mortar and pestle (or blender), mash the cooked chicken liver with the soaked ñora pepper (stem and seeds removed), a little coarse sea salt, a few black peppercorns, a pinch of cinnamon, a pinch of grated nutmeg, 2 cloves and 3 or 4 spoonfuls of the cooking liquid. When a thick sauce (picada) has been achieved, pour into the cazuela. In Catalunya (where the come from) picadas normally contain ground nuts and dry bread and are added towards the end of cooking – this is not the case here, but the word picada means chopped or ground up, as well as being a Catalan cooking term.


Simmer for 30 minutes.


Check the seasoning, then mix in 2 cups (300g) dry Bomba (or similar) rice. Unlike paella, you should stir this often or it will stick. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes until the rice is tender. Do add more stock if the broth gets too thick.


In the meantime, grind up a generous pinch of saffron and pour on a little boiling water. Add this to the Arròs Brut a few minutes before serving (this stops the saffron flavour from dissipating).


In the last 5 minutes boil a handful of fresh peas – they can be cooked in the Arròs Brut, but will loose their lovely bright green colour.

arroz mallorquín

Spread the peas out on top of the soupy rice along with a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

arròs casero

This is very thirsty rice, so serve immediately (or it will drink all the broth!) with some crusty bread. To accompany the Arròs Brut I recommend drinking a glass or two of Es Mussol (the owl) a dry white wine from Conde de Suyrot in Mallorca, made with the Malvasia grape, more commonly used in making sweeter wines. It’s quite probable that this grape variety originally came from Crete.

About Mad Dog
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4 Responses to Arròs Brut

  1. Audrey says:

    Mmm! I wish the Portuguese and Spanish had made to New Zealand in the 17/18/19 centuries .. less pancakes and cream and more spice and rice !
    Humpty Dumpty xxx

    • Mad Dog says:

      Ha ha – that’s a very interesting thought – you’d have Iberico pigs and more rabbits! Hispania, the Roman name for Iberia, means land of rabbits 😉

  2. This sounds delicious, MD! I was just the other day talking with my nephew-in-law (from Nicaragua) who’s visiting for the summer> Coincidentally he was telling me he didn’t care for a soupy rice dish there called “arroz aguado”. But when I showed him this post, he said, *this* actually looks good!

    And I agree. I may give it a try and see if it flies… And if not, more for me!

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Frank – I just looked at a few recipes for arroz aguado (watery rice) and I’m inclined to agree with your nephew-in-law! Spanish soupy rices are more like a wet rissotto, All’Onda with more broth (perhaps). The soupyness depends on the cooking – a really sticky wet rice that has absorbed most of the liquid is called arroz meloso. I hope you enjoy it!

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