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Marcus Leadley - Recipes

Cooking Rice


So many people I know seem to have a problem cooking rice. Many seem to be under the impression that all rices are born equal and simply need to be boiled in lots of water. Not so; some like to be started off in boiling water while others like it cold to start with. None seem to benefit from the addition of salt at an early stage. In most cases I've found that reading the instruction on the packet and following them seems a mostly faultless solution.

Despite some resistance to the name I find that American Easy Cook rice almost impossible to get wrong and it has a pleasant flavour.

And then there's Basmati. It's the one for Indian food for sure, it has a great taste but it takes some precision cooking – well it did until I dumped the following method in favour of a simpler one I came across completely by accident. However I'll put it out here as it nearly always does deliver great rice – but if your not paying attention at the critical time, oh dear!

Basmati (method 1)

Put rice in a heavy saucepan (a cup [not a mug!]) per person is about right but I generally cook more as it's great to have in the fridge for fried rice or a salad. It also freezes brilliantly to become almost instant food – given that an icy block is table ready in about five minutes.

Back to the rice… wash in boiling water three or four times, each time discarding starch along with the water. Top the pan up so the rice is covered to a depth of about one centimetre. Once the rice is bubbling – and this is the critical moment – give it one quick but thorough stir and seal the pan with a close fitting lid (or a plate if the seal isn't good) and turn the heat down to as low a simmer as you can. If you don't get this bit right you'll have problems: if the rice isn't boiling enough when you close the pot it will probably end up slightly overcooked and a little mushy. If it is boiling too hard you may well have to add extra water in the last stages of cooking to get the grains soft.

Sounds like a pain doesn’t it? Well, it is a bit! Well, check around the six to seven minutes mark. When cooked, all the water should have been absorbed and you should hear a subtle crackling sound from the bottom of the pan – but check by taste. This is the point to stir and fluff up the rice. Allow any final dampness to rise off by leaving the pan to stand open for five minutes of so.

Basmati (method 2)

To cut a long story short I recently had to cook basmati on an electric hob on which getting anything to simmer was an impossibility. I kind of improvised with the result that I've now abandoned the slow cooking method as this new technique is a lot simpler and so far foolproof. After washing (same as method 1) bring the Basmati to a strong boil in a pan of water in which it's again covered to a depth of about a centimetre. Cover with plate or lid, take off the heat and let it stand for three or four minutes.

Occasionally return to the heat to bring it back to the boil but mostly allow it to stand. Do not stir. It should be fully cooked in eight to ten minutes – check by tasting and once done, give it a stir and leave to stand without the lid until ready to serve. This relatively casual technique has yet to fail me and I seem to get perfect, light fluffy rice every time.

Other rice recipes:

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