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Cooking Rice!

By Robin Forbes

Cooking Brown Rice - Plain White - Perfection - Paella - Short Grained Rice - Risotto Tips

There are many ways people across the world cook their rice. From plain boiled rice to Paella, in this article we will describe how to cook different types of rice, desribe some of the different varieties and include a desriptions of preparation methods.

Rice comes in a variety of shapes and colors, but the main categories are; long grain, short grain, white rice and brown. Long grain is the most common in the US, Europe and Asia.

Plate of Mixed Rice
Mixed rice: Plain, Brown and Wild
We eat it boiled, plain, or with vegetables, meats and sauces. If you ever go for a ‘Curry’ or ‘Chinese’ this is what you generally eat as a side dish.

Two very popular dishes are egg fried rice and pilaff rice. Egg Fried Rice is plain boiled rice which is then recooked with egg, peas and a little soy sauce. Pilaf is rice cooked with whole spices and stock to make a fragrant side dish.

There are many ways of cooking rice, but the standard way is to boil it with plain water.

Plain White Method

When you cook any rice it needs to be washed well first. This removes dirt from the field and excess starchy dust. Some polished rice has talc added and this should definintely be rinsed thoroughly. Use three quarters to one cup per person and add to a tall sided pan. Fill the pan with water to double the level of the rice and bring to the boil for 15 mins, or until all the water is gone and the rice is light and fluffy. Cooking this way provides a base for various other dishes , if you find it a bit boring there are many ways of improving it.


My preference is the traditional Persian style where you start off by soaking washed rice for 3 to 5 hours, then using a tall sided pan add the rice and three times the amount of water as there is rice. Bring to the boil and cook it for around 8 minutes or until the rice is firm and slightly ‘al dente’, drain and put back into the pan. Add 100ml of water and 20 grams of butter over the top of the rice and steam for another five or six minutes or until all the water has evaporated. The resulting rice is fluffy and delicious. To aid the drying out; actually to stop condensed water from dripping back on to the rice, you should cover the lid with a dishcloth.

Traditionally the Iranian wamixed cooked
The three rices shown earlier cooked together
y would also include browning the base of the rice, producing a delicious golden crusty layer which is then broken up and served up on a separate plate. Quite often saffron is used to add flavour and colour.

Another traditional eastern style uses stocks and spices. This is from India. Start with Half an onion and 2 cloves of garlic, both finely chopped, add any spices you want, Cardamom and Star Anis are the two most often used in pilaf rice, note that they should be left whole so they can be removed once cooked. Using a tall sided pan add 30ml of vegetable oil and fry the onion and spices until soft, then add the rice and fry for a further 2 mins. Add twice as much stock as rice and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Cooking Brown Rice

Brown rice, or rice which has not had its outer coating removed is becoming more popular as the health benefits of fibre in one's diet are becoming more widely recognised. All forms of rice have had the husk removed but white rice has been further processed or milled to take off the outer layers of the grain. Some white rice goes through a polishing process which further removes the vitamis and minerals.

Normally I cook it as for white rice but extend the times to thirty five minutes or so. Some suggest adding more water than the two to one ratio, however to retain the nuttiness I enjoy I tend to limit it to exactly two measures of water to one of rice.

Simply recognising that brown rice takes longer to cook, and using any of the methods used for white rice will result in success, even the cook and drain method used for Persian style Basmati ~ but with the initial boiling period extended to twenty five minutes.

Brown Rice is an acquired taste but I now prefer it to other forms. In our home it has become the default way we eat rice.

mixed served

One of our readers sugested adding finely chopped onions from the start and this results in a more fragrant and tasty rice, as does using stock rather than plain water. As I write this there is some such leftovers in the refrigerator (it can keep for up to three days).

There you have it, tastier and more nutritious ~ outer layers of brown rice are rich in vitamins and minerals ~ so important these days ~ try it a few times and I suspect that like me you will stay with brown rice. The health benefits of wholefoods such as brown rice are considerable, longer life expectancy, reduced chance of cancer to name a couple.

The pictures show long grained mixed grain rice cooked in the persian style with saffron and added browned rice from the bottom of the pan (tadig). The mixed rice is shown in its uncooked state in the image at the top of the page; a mix of red, brown and wild or black rice. In the final picture you can see the finished product with saffron and Tadig added, some white rice has been added to make it more familiar and acceptable to our guests.

Short Grain Rice

Short grain rice is used in several popular dishes in Europe; from paella to risotto and even in rice pudding. It is usually cooked with stocks or cream and is creamy and nutty in taste. Paella is a Spanish dish originally from Valencia but there are many variations to it across the world. Valencia paella is a mixture of seafood and rabbit but it can vary cosiderably region to region and you too have the choice of ingredients as you are the one who will be eating it!


The main ingredient of Paella is the rice; once you have mastered cooking that part of the dish you are well on the way to be a Paelliera (OK I made up the word I confess but it does sound right to me)

Start by roasting some chicken legs (or rabbit if you like) also roast some red and yellow peppers, peel and deseed them and slice into strips. Add some onion, garlic and chilli into a nice big paella pan or wide frying pan, and fry till soft in plenty of olive oil. Calasparra is the name of the most commonly used Spanish paella rice. it is similar in its appearance and its absorptive qualities to risotto rices but I prefer the texture to the Italian versions, add to the pan and fry for a few minutes.

The stock should have the saffron added after it has come off the boil, if you are new to saffron be very sparing indeed, as, if used in excess it will make the dish bitter. Saffron can be soaked in a few tablespoons of hot but not boiling water and then added to the cooling stock. -

Gently add about a third of the heated stock and allow it to become fully absorbed, then pour in the rest and add the chicken and as the seafood. Remember that the rice is the main attraction and do not overdo the other ingredients. I would use prawns, mussells, cockles, lobster, swordfish or shark and squid. Add the sliced roasted peppers and cover with foil, then put in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for about half an hour or until the stock has been absorbed. Never, but never ever use the Tartrazine saffron substitute. It may be yellow, but it detracts from the taste, rots your guts and the alum enhanced coloring causes behavioural and development problems in children.

Saffron can be soaked in a few tablespoons of hot but not boiling water. Give it at least 20 minutes, it can be left overnight if you want to extract more of the flavour and color.

Risotto Tips: -

Don't settle for any Risotto rice, there are several varieties, my favorite is Carnaroli. it is less sticky than Arborio and it usually tastes more like the rice I am used to. My local store stocks Vialone Nano risotto rice which is similar in texture but is shorter and the ones I have tried have been a bit blander than the others. ~~ Scott Ed

Other rices to use for Risotto are; Baldo, Roma or Arborio. Viale Nano can also be used in Minestrone soup and is the best one to use in timbales (dry rice dishes). Carnarole takes a little longer to cook; 18-20 minutes whereas Viale Nano is ready in 14-15 minutes. 

Risotto (and Paella): When making Risotto you must have the stock pre-heated so as not to interrupt the cooking process and the stock should be added gradually while gently stirring. If using wine it should be added before the stock. As with Paella, the rice should be gently fried before adding the stock, a little onion, herbs and spices should be added before the rice and be patient when adding the stock. Slowly does it and test continuously. Remember that rice will continue to cook after heat is taken away so stop before it is fully cooked.  ~~ S. Ed 

Did you know that it was Alexander the Great who brought rice back to Europe?

More Related Links:

Wikipedia - Rice All about the tasty grass!!!
Diet for Kids Healthy kids.

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