The staple diet of Asia and students, rice is easy and quick to cook. You can find it in classy restaurants combined with truffles and saffron, or in the sink of shared households, glued to a pan with fried egg and onions. In risottos, it's stodgy and comforting, yet it's a light and seemingly healthy option combined with fresh green herbs and raw veg in a salad.
This basest of ingredients has universal appeal, across all continents and social strata, it comes in an array of colours, shapes and varieties: pearlescent Arborio, nutty brown and exotic wild.
Here are just a few of the h2g2 Community's favourite rice recipes...
Basic Method for Cooking Rice
Put your rice in a pan and cover with water to the depth of your thumbnail (about 2cm). Bring the water to the boil, cover, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or so. After that, turn the heat off and leave for another 10 mins. You should have perfect fluffy rice that you don't have to drain.
For a more detailed recipe for 'Foolproof Rice', click here.
Adding Flavour to Rice
Plain boiled rice can make a decent addition to many meals, but it can be a little bland on its own. However, there are many ways to perk up boiled rice. So if you want to try something more adventurous than ketchup or barbecue sauce on your rice, read on:
Just add a small pinch of salt, and a small pinch of chilli/mustard powder when boiling the rice. When you eat the rice, you should not be able to taste the spice. But the heat of the spice will make your mouth water more, allowing you to taste the rice 'more effectively'.
Add some lemongrass and a couple of strands of saffron for delicately flavoured rice that goes well with Thai dishes.
For rice to accompany Indian food, add turmeric (mainly for colour so you don't need a lot of it), a bay leaf, a blade of mace, and a couple of cloves.
Throw in a cinnamon stick when you boil the water and keep it in there when boiling the rice. Although it can have the unusual side-effect of turning the rice pink, it does add a nice spicy flavour.
You can also try cooking rice by the absorption method using a tin of tomatoes to make up most of the liquid, then serve with lots of grated cheese. Cheap student comfort food.
Egg Fried Rice
The standard accompaniment for Chinese meals, egg fried rice might look difficult, but follow these instructions and you shouldn't find it too difficult.
Boil your rice as normal. Next, heat a wok (or large frying pan) as hot as you can. Put in a tablespoon of oil, and add the rice. Crack a couple of eggs in, around the side so that it cooks, and mixes with the rice.
I usually make mine by making a 'well' in the middle of the rice and breaking the egg into that... letting it cook for a few seconds then starting to scramble it in with the rice. That way you get some egg coating the rice grains, and also the little scrambled bits too.
Keep the rice moving, so that it doesn't brown too much, but allow the egg to cook in lumps. Serve, with soy sauce.
To turn this accompaniment into a main meal, just add what you like - chicken or prawns, sweet peppers, peas, sweetcorn, chopped spring onions. Be careful though - if you use frozen stuff, make sure the egg has set before you add everything else to the pan. Otherwise it just ends up soggy...
This definitely works best with left-over rice. If you do use freshly cooked rice, make sure you cool it first by running under cold water, and draining as well as you possibly can. But yesterday's leftovers are ideal.
A Recipe for Kedgeree
An alternative to your usual breakfast, kedgeree's a good source of protein.
- 1kg smoked haddock
- 150g rice
- 2 hardboiled eggs
- 2 dessert-spoons plain flour
- 2 teaspoons mild curry powder
- 25g butter or margarine
- Chopped parsley
Poach the haddock in milk and water (about half and half) until it is well cooked (about 10 minutes). Skin it and flake the fish. Retain the cooking liquid. Wash the rice and cook it until soft. Chop the hardboiled eggs and add to the rice and flaked fish.
In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter/marge and fry the curry spices in it. Then, sprinkle on the flour and stir to make a roux. Slowly add the milk and water mixture, and stir to get rid of lumps. Add enough of the mixture to make a fairly thin sauce, then boil to thicken. Pour the sauce into the rice mixture, stir well, and dollop onto serving plates. Serve with a slice of lemon and garnish with parsley. If you feel adventurous and want to make this for breakfast, then cut well down on the curry spices.
For an effective variation on this, swap the smoked fish with tinned tuna, and cut out the curry spices. As an optional extra, add chopped tomatoes and cucumber.
Sticky Rice with Mangoes
You need glutinous (sticky) shortgrain rice for this recipe and it needs to be soaked overnight. It you can't get glutinous rice, you could substitute short-grain rice.
- 1/2 pint (10 fl oz/275 ml) coconut milk
- 2 oz (50g) white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 10 oz (275f) glutinous rice, soaked overnight, drained, cooked and kept warm
- 4 ripe mangoes, peeled, halved, stones removed and sliced crosswise
In a large mixing bowl, stir together 8 fl oz/225 ml) of the coconut milk with the sugar and salt and stir until the sugar dissolved. Stir in the still-warm cooked rice, cover and set aside for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile simmer the remaining coconut milk in a small pan, uncovered for 10 minutes. Place the sticky rice in the centre of a serving plate, arrange the mango slices around it, sprinkle the rice with the simmered coconut milk and serve.
Rice 'n' Beans
This is not to be confused with feijoada, which is a special form of rice and beans, but more concentrated on the bean preparation - so not really a rice-dish. Standard rice and beans are just rice, beans and some salt. Nothing else.
Cook rice and beans separately (the beans can be of any type you like, but remember to cook them properly to remove the toxins!). Once cooked, bring the rice and beans together and mash them. If you do it correctly you will end up with a brownish mush that tastes wonderful and goes well with anything.
For additional 'creaminess', boil the rice in coconut milk instead of water. You can also add some sliced red peppers with the beans too.
A Peanut Sauce for Rice and Vegetables
Heat a little oil in a sauce pan. Add chopped garlic and cook very briefly, about 30 seconds. If you have a chilli pepper, chop it up small and cook with the garlic (though if you don't have it, don't worry). Add a cup of water or coconut milk (if you have it), 1/3 cup of peanut butter, and a teaspoon of soy sauce. If you don't have a chilli pepper, you can add a dash of hot sauce. Cook and stir over medium-low heat a few minutes until the sauce thickens a little. Serve over rice and vegetables.
For this, you'll need long-grain Basmati rice - about one and a half handfuls per person (adjust this to the size of your hands!).
Before cooking the rice you could add one of those rice stock cubes, or cinnamon, cardamon and cumin to make it a bit more exciting. Cook the rice as usual. For the sauce, fry up some onions, add tin(s) of tomatoes and a teaspoon of mixed herbs. To this add cooked meat and dried fruit (sultanas, raisins or apricots work best), or for the veggies, add beans and/or pulses and fry extra vegetables with the onion. Season to taste - you can add curry or chili for a spicier version.
You can either serve immediately or place half of the rice in a casserole dish, pour over the sauce and then cover with the remaining rice. Cook at gas mark 3 / 170c for 40 mins.
A Quick Cheese Pilaff
This takes about 25 minutes, but more time should be allowed for preparing the tomatoes, chopping the onions etc.
- 4-6oz Patna rice
- 3 large tomatoes, skinned and sliced
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 6oz mushrooms (optional)
- 6-8oz grated or diced cheese - a strong-flavoured variety such as mature Cheddar gives the best result
- 3oz butter
- 1-1/12 pints water
Heat half the butter in a frying pan, then fry the sliced onions until nearly soft. Add the tomatoes and cook for several minutes, then add the water. Bring the water to the boil, shake in the rice, season well and cook until tender for about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, fry the mushrooms (if required)in the rest of the butter. Stir cheese into the rice mixture and serve on a hot dish, surrounding the meal with the mushrooms.
The best rice, I have found, for making a risotto is Arborio. It's quite starchy and therefore makes really filling meals but is also succulent and creamy at the same time. You can do pretty much whatever you want when it comes to risottos, just throw in whatever you feel like, allowing, of course for the cooking times for any meats you may be using. If using chicken I generally cook it first as there's nothing worse than raw chicken ...
- Onion (1/2 per person)
- Arborio Rice (approx 75g per person)
- Oil (a tablespoon)
- Stock (approx 1 pint per person)
Exact quantities vary depending on how many people you're trying to feed so you might have to improvise.
Heat the oil in a heavy based pan and soften the onion. Throw the rice in with the onion and stir it to absorb all the oniony flavours. Pour in the stock in smallish quantities and stir regularly until all of the liquid has been absorbed, continuing to do this until it seems that the rice can handle no more.
If you just leave it at that you will have basically a very thick, rice soup, flavoured with whatever stock you used. It's a good idea to use the stock which most compliments the main theme of your risotto (ie, if you're having a purely vegetarian risotto then there's little point using chicken stock).
You can them throw everything else in at the same time (assuming of course the meat is cooked)... just lob it all in together. If you want to avoid your carrots and mushrooms going soggy, cook them separately and serve them as a side dish.
Recommended Additional Ingredients
- Chicken and mushroom
- Lemon Roasted chicken and spinach
- Mixed mushroom
- Spinach, mushroom and broadbean
- Kidneys (pigs, lambs, whatever takes your fancy!)
- Oregano, Basil or Tarragon
- Tuna chunks or other fish (for fish risotto)
I've only recently started doing risottos but they're just delicious; the lemon roasted chicken and spinach is particularly good with a green salad ... I must stop ... my mouth's watering ...
This probably doesn't count as a risotto in the accepted sense of the word. However, this is easy, quick and (reasonably) cheap. You will need to adjust the amount of water, depending on what vegetables (and how much of them) you use.
- 12oz - 1lb minced (ground) beef
- 5oz rice (don't use Italian - it's too starchy. American 'Easy-Cook' is best)
- 1lb pack of frozen sliced peppers.
- 1/2 cup water
Note: The amount of water is small because a lot of water cooks out of the frozen peppers. If you use a different kind of vegetable (such as fresh vegetables or vegetables that don't have a high water content), you'll need to adjust the amount of water.
Brown the beef in its own fat. Add the water and allow it to come to the boil. Add the rice, stir and allow the water to come back to the boil. Now, add the peppers, stir and cover. When the water is boiling again, reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer until the rice is cooked, by which time the water should have been absorbed by the rice. Serve.
This dish tastes great if seasoned with soy sauce, rather than salt. Worcestershire sauce isn't bad, or you could try a spicy seasoning. The recipe is so basic, you can fool around with it to your heart's content.
Pumpkin, Chicken, Herbs and Pea Risotto
- 1/2 1 medium butternut pumpkin (squash)
- 3 cups of stock
- 1 onion
- 2-4 cloves of garlic
- 250g of chicken breast
- Approximately 3 handfuls of mixed fresh Italian herbs (thyme, marjoram or oregano and basil) 2 cups of Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 20g of butter
- 40mL of olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Peel the pumpkin and chop it up. Cook the pumpkin in stock until it's soft, then put it all in a blender to produce a puree. Chop everything else, except for the peas. Cook the onion and garlic until soft, add the chicken and thyme and cook through. Add the rice and toss to coat it in the butter and oil. Add the marjoram or oregano, and the first ladle of the stock. Stir continuously, until the stock is absorbed, then add more stock and repeat. Before you add the last ladle of stock, add the basil and the peas. Sprinkle Parmesan on top after it is served.
Another dish popular with students, risotto makes an excellent dish for parties. But there are a number of different ways to give your risotto that extra pizazz.How about this fairly quick and easy recipe, which makes a nice alternative to the traditional recipe:
- 1 medium - large onion
- 1 pack diced bacon (labour-saving!)
- 2 sweet peppers
- 1 small block cheese (something with a fairly mild flavour, and a medium-soft texture. Goats cheese is recommended)
- 1 cup rice
- Oil for frying
- Black pepper
Cook the rice as normal. Chop and fry the onion until tender. Add in the bacon and chopped peppers, and cook through. Add the rice to the bacon mixture, and stir well. Add the diced cheese, and pepper to taste. Continue to cook until the cheese starts to melt.
Rather than melting the onion first then adding the rice off the heat, try adding the rice straight to the hot oil, almost toasting it. After a minute or so (make sure you stir vigorously) it will give off a fantastic smell. Now add the chopped onions and cook for a few minutes before starting the wine/vermouth/stock routine. The onion will be slightly crunchier than if you melt it beforehand. The dish takes less time to cook this way, but the texture is slightly different.
Alternatively, cook the rice as usual (preferably a jasmine rice or a white rice with a pinch of lemongrass in the cooking water) and dice a sweet pepper (preferably yellow although any sweet pepper works) and some feta cheese. Once the rice is cooked, mix in the peppers, feta cheese and some prawns. Serve with a large glass of a crisp white wine.
Cook the rice (almost) as normal, but turn it off just before it is cooked. In a bowl, mix the rice, an egg, a teaspoon of curry powder, and enough flour to make this into a thick paste. Form the mixture into small patties or rounds, and fry until golden (turning over to cook all sides!).
...and for Pudding?
Why not try rice pudding (rice cooked in milk with a dash of sugar and nutmeg) or the children's favourite - chocolate Rice Krispies!
Some Final 'Food for Thought'
It was recently identified that rice field methane emissions are the major source of atmospheric methane. (20% of total methane emission, or 100 Million tons per year). By 2020, 3 billion more people will need a further 350 million tons per year (600 million tons per year in 1998, at a yield of four tons per hectare, and 69% of freshwater flowing into agriculture, rice being one of the most water consuming crops). The figures are not really comforting, maybe it's time to think about more efficient ways to produce rice.