|Clockwise from top: Basmati rice, Sushi rice, Arborio rice|
Rice, so adaptable, quick and easy to cook, and so many varieties to choose from... the three types I usually keep on hand are the ones my family most enjoys: basmati rice, arborio rice and sushi rice, although I do occasionally buy converted rice (there are some meals that it works so well with).
Rice can be cooked using a rice cooker, or on the stove top, the method that I prefer. I use the absorption method, which means that you allow it to come to a full boil, then simmer it covered until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove it from the heat and leave it to continue steaming for 5 minutes before fluffing and serving. This works well with converted rice and basmati rice.
Arborio rice is usually cooked slowly, adding warm liquid a little at a time, stirring often, until the rice is cooked through, but not mushy. The ratio is about 1 part rice : 3 1/2 parts liquid. The starch in the rice is released and thickens, it has a higher starch content than long grain rice. Arborio is usually used to make risotto, rice pudding and can be used to make paella if Spanish short grain rice is not available.
I like to use Jamie Oliver's basic risotto recipe:
After cooking the basic risotto the fun can start. Mix and match vegetables and meat, herbs, nuts, cheeses...the combinations are endless, and depend largely upon what you have to use up and your imagination.
I often use up small amounts of vegetables or cheese in the risotto, and then top it with a piece of grilled chicken, fish or pork.
Leftover risotto can be chilled overnight, mixed 2 cups of rice to 1 egg and formed into balls. Gently press a piece of mozzarella into the middle of each ball, then roll in breadcrumbs and bake at 425F until crispy and heated through.
When making rice pudding the liquid used is often milk, or a combination of milk and heavy cream, but I have also used part apple juice, or part coconut milk.
Basmati rice is produced mainly in India, is a long grain rice and has a mild fragrance. It cooks up fluffy, not sticky, and if you rinse and soak the rice before cooking, it cooks in less time. To rinse cover the rice with cold water and swish around with your hand. Pour off the water and repeat until the water is almost clear. You can then continue with cooking, or cover and allow it to soak for about 10 minutes. Drain the water and then proceed with cooking.
The ratio of rice to liquid for basmati rice is 1 part rice : 1 1/2 parts water. I always add a pinch of salt to the water. Feel free to experiment with different liquids to change the flavour of your rice. Try all water or chicken or vegetable stock, or exchange part of the liquid with white wine or coconut milk.
You can add fresh herbs, bayleaves, whole cloves of garlic or dried chili peppers to infuse flavour.
I like to add frozen peas at the end of the cooking process, allowing them to steam during the rest before serving. Mix them in and you have some colour, texture and extra goodness in your rice.
This is a short grain rice that contains a high amount of starch, and is sticky when cooked, allowing it to be shaped into sushi rolls. The rice is usually rinsed before cooking, to help release the starch.
I use a ratio of 1 part rice : 1 part water. First I rinse the rice in the same way as the basmati rice, however, instead of soaking it, I allow it to rest in a strainer for 10 minutes. Cold water is added and the rice is brought to a full boil, covered and allowed to simmer until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat and allow it so steam for another 10 minutes.
While this is happening heat 2 tablespoons sushi vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Using a fork stir this gently into the rice and spread on a tray to cool completely before making sushi rolls.
- Sometimes leftovers are made on purpose...when I cook plain basmati rice I always make enough extra to make chicken fried rice another night. Cold rice fries up better than warm rice does.
- To make a simple rice pilaf, finely chop 1/4 cup of onion and cook it in olive oil until soft. Add the rice and cook it briefly before adding the liquid and proceed as you normally would, you have added flavour and texture to your rice.
- Add curry powder to the rice when cooking, and then add raisins during the steaming time after cooking. Top with chopped toasted almonds.
- When making meatballs, try adding raw converted rice instead of breadcrumbs. The rice swells up during cooking, creating 'Porcupine Meatballs', fun for kids.