While most of us use a particular type of rice on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to explore the possibilities of this versatile and delicious grain. Getting nervous about ending up with either a glutinous, lumpy mass or a thin, gruel-type mix, can put us off experimenting with rice dishes from other cuisines. The trick is to read the instructions and follow them! Rice can be long grain, medium grain and short grain; unpolished (wild), parboiled and precooked. It can be brown, red, black and purple, as well as white. It can be boiled in water, then drained; steamed; or cooked to absorb an exact amount of water. Here are some methods to try! Be brave!
Bonnet American White Rice
This commonly used long grain white rice (which has been seriously processed with the husk, germ and bran removed) doubles in volume when cooked. It has a mild flavour and a soft texture and is ideal for both savoury dishes and sweet rice puddings. Use two cups of water to one cup of rice. Bring to the boil, allow to simmer at low heat, and only once all the water has been absorbed, fluff up with a fork. Perfect topped with your favourite veg curry, or buttered up and matched with steamed vegetables.
This is also a long grain white rice, but it yields a specific flavour as a result of its growth environment. It has a delicate texture and cooks up stickier and softer than other white rice, making it ideal for Thai curries eaten with chopsticks. Recommended style of cooking without a steamer, involves rinsing the rice well to release extra starch, then placing 2 cups of rice to 3 cups of water in your pot. Bring to the boil then settle the cooking on a low heat until the water is absorbed. Allow the rice to stand in the pot with lid on for at least 10 minutes before stirring to serve.
You can also soak the rice for a couple of hours and then drain it. Then place in a steamer and cook on a regular, gentle heat until nice and soft, and a little bit sticky. Stir the rice about half way through for even softness. Make a killer vegetable green curry to go with your delicious rice!
Arborio Rice (Risotto or Carnaroli or Vialone)
This pearly, medium to small grain rice has a high level of starch and is the rice of choice when making risotto. It cooks to a delicious creaminess, and, unlike other rice, requires stirring frequently in the cooking process, which also involves more liquid or stock than the other grains. This is not rice to make in a hurry as it needs at least 45 minutes to get to that special risotto texture. You will need 5 cups of stock to 1 ½ cups of rice. Pre-make the stock according to your favourite style - I like to make mine with fresh celery, celery leaves, red onion, carrots and herbs, simmered, strained, seasoned and reduced. It needs to be a fulsome broth with decent body. Keep it steaming hot - NEVER add cold stock to your risotto!
Pour some olive oil into a heavy-bottomed pot or pan, and on a medium heat, add chopped shallots, minced garlic and chopped parsley. When sizzling, add the cup of rice and stir until well-coated with the oil. Turn the heat down a tad and begin to add the stock, a half cup at a time, stirring and thinking good thoughts. As soon as the rice has absorbed that stock, add the next half cup. This process takes about 20 minutes. When all the stock has been absorbed, turn the heat down a bit more, put the lid on the pot and allow to cook through and become tender in the steam. You should have a yummy creamy mix, packed with flavour!
Japanese Sushi Rice
This short grain rice has the sweet, sticky, waxy texture essential for the creation of yummy sushi dishes. Work with 2 cups of rice to 3 cups of water. Bring to the boil and then allow to simmer until all the water is absorbed – around 25 minutes. Turn the rice out to cool. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat ½ cup of rice vinegar with 1/4 cup of sugar, a tablespoon of oil and a teaspoon of salt. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then cool. Now pour the cooled rice vinegar mix over the cooled rice and work gently with a wooden spoon, separating the grains; the mix will seem very wet but will dry out as the rice absorbs the extra liquid. If you haven’t time to make proper sushi, then roll your cooked rice into balls, coat with toasted sesame seeds and serve with a peanut dipping sauce!