Rice

Rice

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From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

Learn to cook this great staple perfectly and you have the base for hundreds of splendid hot or cold savoury dishes, sustaining puddings and interesting accompaniments to meat, seafood and poultry.

There are many varieties of rice and it is important to choose the right kind for your purpose.

Types of grain: Rice may be short-, medium- or long-grain.

Short-grain rice: Best for puddings because it clings together when cooked to give a creamy texture. Short- or medium-grain rice is also the traditional choice for Chinese fried rice or other dishes, since clinging grains are best for eating with chopsticks, although long-grain rice can be used.

The Italian rices such as arborio, carnaroli or vialone nano are short- to medium-grain varieties, with large, round grains; available at Italian groceries and delicatessens, they are often labelled risotto rice. These rices are able to absorb liquid and stand up to long, slow cooking without becoming soft and mushy. Look for calasparra for paella. If not available use one of the Italian rice varieties.

Medium-grain rice: Suitable for savoury dishes where the rice should be in distinct grains but holding together – for example rice rings, moulds and croquettes. If medium-grain is not available, use long-grain for rice rings and moulds, short-grain for croquettes.

Long-grain rice: Cooks to give the separate, fluffy grains required for plain boiled rice and for most savoury dishes, stuffings and rice salads. Basmati rice from Pakistan is a superb, lighttextured long-grain rice, with a wonderful aromatic flavour. It is expensive, but worth it for dishes like Indian ghee rice, pilaf, pilau and Biryani.

Other fragrant rices to look for are jasmine, used in many Southeast Asian recipes, and Thai white rice, a slightly sticky rice with a distinctive aroma.

Types of rice:

White (polished) rice: This has been hulled and had the bran coating removed. It is tender and easily digested, and is remarkable in its ability to complement, contrast or provide a vehicle for the flavours and textures of many other foods. Brown rice: This has been hulled but has not lost its bran coating. It is more nutritious and rather more filling than white rice, and has a nutty taste and slightly chewy texture. Brown rice is particularly good in vegetable dishes or used as a stuffing, and is an excellent binder for meat loaves. It takes longer to cook than white rice.

Parboiled rice: Long-grain polished rice which has been treated before milling with a steam pressure process; this forces some of the bran’s nutrients into the grain so that it retains more food value than ordinary white rice. It is not washed before cooking as the steam process has removed surface starch. Since the steam has also hardened it, it takes longer to cook than ordinary white rice (20–25 minutes) and absorbs more liquid (2½ parts water to 1 part rice). Apart from its nutritive value, the advantage of parboiled rice is that it is almost foolproof in giving beautifully fluffy, separate grains and it has a good nutty flavour.

Quick-cooking or ‘instant’ rice: This has been cooked, then dehydrated. It usually needs only 4–6 minutes’ heating in boiling water; follow directions on the pack.

Wild rice: The seed of a grass related to the rice family. It is very expensive but a great treat – its rare, nutty flavour is the perfect complement to poultry and game. For economy, cooked wild rice can be combined with cooked brown or white rice.

Buying, storing and reheating rice: Buy only as much as you expect to use within a month. It may develop weevils if held for too long. Store all rice airtight in a cool, dry place.

Servings: One cup of raw rice weighs about 200 g, and will swell to about 555 g when cooked, enough for 6–7 servings of plain boiled rice as an accompaniment.

Cooked rice will remain in good condition in a covered container in the refrigerator for 5–6 days. To reheat, place in a sieve or colander and run hot water through it, then stand colander over a saucepan about one-third full of boiling water, cover with a cloth and steam for 10–15 minutes. Or spread out in a baking dish, sprinkle with a little milk and dot with butter, cover with a cloth, or foil with a few holes poked in it, and place in a preheated very slow oven until heated through.

Rice can be frozen, although this changes the texture a little and is seldom worthwhile since it is almost as quick to cook rice freshly as to thaw it. Thaw by placing in a sieve and running hot water through it, then steaming over boiling water as described above. Do not freeze rice in liquid, such as a soup, as it goes mushy.

Ingredients

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