Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Perfect rice

I hated rice as a child. We had this revolting stuff in South Africa called Tastic rice (taking the fan out of fantastic - took me years to work out what they'd done there) and as far as I was concerned, it was like chewing wool.  Unless it was brown Tastic rice, which was like chewing wool with added wood shavings. I knew that in some countries people had rice as a staple food, and by God I pitied them.
The most depressing dinner of my life (okay, apart from bleeding-heart pasta, more about that another time) was when I came downstairs from studying for exams to find Mom had cooked brown rice, fish, and broccoli. (I stopped eating fish at 4, apparently out of a sympathy for the "little fishies" that did not extend to the little chickens, little sheep, little cows, or any other animal. I now love broccoli, but then it was my kryptonite, and no amount of sophistry trying to persuade me it was "little trees" would fool me. But the rice was the real horror, at that dinner.)  Then I came back from my gap year in the UK and apparently, in my absence, we'd discovered Basmati rice. I ate an entire bowlful of the stuff, cold, straight out of a bowl, in front of the fridge. It was the most extraordinary cognitive dissonance. I'm eating RICE! But it tastes good! This is RICE! Can't... stop... eating... In those days we were still boiling it in vats of water, pasta-style, and draining it, and it took a couple more years before I discovered the magical secret of perfect rice. I think that was via the Bahkti Yoga society at university, who gave cooking lessons and free food, but I'll tell you all about them when I put up the recipes for dahl and kedgeree.

For perfect rice, you melt the butter first, with any relevant spices, stir the rice into the butter, add the exact amount of hot water (1 part rice to 2 parts water), cover it, turn it down to the lowest setting for 13 minutes, and switch it off. I declared this on Facebook and the Rice Wars began, because it turns out everyone has their perfect method, but this is mine, and it is PERFECT.

The ingredients assemble. (Boil the wate in advance.) I always pop a couple of cardamom pods in my rice.

Melt the butter over a medium-low heat - about 25g for half a cup of rice (which serves 2). Use a small pot with nice tight-fitting lid. (The lid doesn't have to be that nice, to be honest.)

Here is the half cup of rice, which will serve 2. 2 quite generously, mind. 

Cardamom pods going into the melted butter... (although it looks like I used ghee here, that'll do too.)

Stir the rice into the melted butter / ghee...

Toss in a teaspoon or just under of salt, or however salty you like it...

Fill the cup with freshly boiled water, and chuck it in. If your heat isn't medium-low, or you've delayed a bit, the water may frantically boil and steam up, so stand back a bit.

Nice tight-fitting lid. I think this lid is quite nice. Set an alarm for 13 minutes, and then switch it off. The Balti Bible recently introduced me to the notion that you can do rice well in advance, that it even likes an extra half-hour chilling out (if the lid is kept on, it won't actually lose much heat), that even an hour is fine, which takes the timing pressure off all sorts of meals.

Happy rice-eating. Never eat Tastic.

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