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10th February 2013

A rookie’s guide to rice

Let this advice become ingrained in your memory

Lid off, lid on? Heat off, heat on? Gooey or separated? When it comes to cooking rice no one seems to find it easy, yet everyone has an opinion on how to do it. Too much water and you get a starchy mess, too little and you’ve got raw pellets that will churn up your insides like a plough through a field.

Then there’s the different types. You’ve got American long grain like Uncle Ben’s that is good with chilli; sticky jasmine to be eaten with chop sticks; or pillows of pilau rice to accompany a curry.

The following recipes taste brilliant with Basmati which is a fine grain. Pure Tilda Rice ranks top on the supermarket shelves but any long grain will do. Always give your rice a good rinse, regardless of variety. Washing removes excess starch to help the rice cook evenly and to be less sticky. If your rice is underdone add a little water and leave, unheated, to rest for a while. Rice also tastes better if it has rested for 10 minutes before serving.

Basic:  Basmati rice
Put 475ml of basmati rice in a bowl, cover with cold water and stir gently. Pour out the dirty water. Repeat several times then drain. Heat a tbsp of oil in a heavy pan, add rice and sauté for a minute. Add 650ml of water, bring to the boil. Cover then reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and simmer for 25 mins.

Adventurous: Buttery rice with onion
This is good with Indian or English dishes. Melt 50g of butter in a heavy pot, put in 75g chopped onion and sauté until it’s translucent. Stir in 425ml of rice for a minute then pour in 700ml of water and bring to a boil. Cover tightly, turn the heat to low and let the rice cook for 25 mins. 

Deluxe: Sri Lankan rice with fresh coriander and lemongrass
This is my all-time favourite rice recipe. Great with chilli and garlic prawns or a yoghurt or coconut-based fish curry; it’s flavourful, but not overpowering and it’s so good you can happily eat it as a meal by itself. The ingredients may be a challenge, but are readily available on the Curry Mile. The distinctive smell and flavour of curry leaves in particular makes them great in loads of recipes.

Wash the rice well. Pour 3 tbsps of oil into the pan on a medium-high heat. Put in 3 cardamom pods, 3 cloves, and a 5cm stick of cinnamon or a pinch of powder and let this sizzle for 5 seconds. Put in 10 fresh curry leaves (or 5 basil) 2 cloves of crushed garlic, 2 tsp peeled and finely grated ginger and 15cm of lemongrass which has been cut lengthways into two. Stir for a minute. Add 475ml of rice and 60g chopped fresh coriander. Reduce the heat to medium and stir for a minute. Add 650ml chicken stock, a tsp of salt and bring to boil. Then turn the heat to low and cook for 25 mins.

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