Many cuisines use rice as the key ingredient in their cooking or as an everyday accompaniment to most of their meals. With the availability of so many international products in South Africa, family kitchens are now better equipped than ever before to recreate these delicious rice creations. But rice can be tricky to master and many fear over-cooking it, burning it or chewing on hard under cooked grains. Whether or not you need to wash rice before you cook it is dependent on where and how you bought it. If you bought it in a bag from the supermarket, then it’s likely that it has already been cleaned to remove any dust or debris. If you bought it from a market where it was weighed out from a large sack, you may need to rinse it under cold running water for a minute or two, as it probably hasn’t been through any cleaning processes. Some people always rinse their rice, regardless of where they purchased it, because they believe it removes any excess starch and makes the rice fluffier. Try it for yourself and see if you prefer it this way. Rinse, drain and repeat until the rice water becomes clear.
Cooking rice is often a process of trial and error to determine which cooking method you prefer. A good rule of thumb for most cooking techniques is ‘one part rice and two parts liquid.’ Add two cups of water to every cup of long-grained or basmati rice. Put your rice in a pan, cover with the water (and an optional tablespoon of oil if desired) and a pinch of salt and simmer gently with a lid on for around 12-15 minutes. Resist the temptation to lift the lid while the rice is cooking and simmering. It doesn’t need to be shaken or stirred. The rice will puff up naturally by retaining the moisture from the steam. If the rice is still crunchy at the end of the cooking time, pour an extra 2-3 tablespoons of hot water into the pan and let the rice simmer again for another 5 minutes. Rice steamers are good for cooking consistently soft rice. They usually take around 20 minutes to cook the rice through, depending on which cooker you use and how much rice you require.
Some chefs recommend toasting rice before serving it to give a nuttier and richer flavour. All you need to do is heat a non-stick, steel or cast-iron pan over a very low heat. When the pan is warm, tip in the cooked rice and, if you’d like to add a bit of a creamy texture, add a dab of Stork Margarine. Stir this for 8-10 minutes but try not to sauté it. Once you smell the nutty aroma and the rice looks golden, it should be ready and toasted.
Different varieties of rice complement different dishes. Arborio and Carnaroli are popular for risotto and pilafs. Basmati rice is long and needle-shaped and available as both brown and white. This type of rice can be enjoyed with Persian and South East Asian meals including Indian curries. Long grain rice is the most versatile and can be used for almost any dish. It has a fluffier texture and is great when used for egg-fried rice. Brown rice tends to be rich in fibre, minerals and vitamins but can take longer to cook. Jasmine or Asian rice is grown in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand and is perfect for many Asian and Oriental dishes.
For an easy, quick evening meal, sauté some shallots, diced red pepper, carrot matchsticks, Thai basil, garlic and uncooked king prawns. Mix in some low fat coconut milk, red curry paste and one Knorr Chicken Stock pot. Serve with rice and garnish with fresh some coriander. To see these tips in action, take a look at one of our favourite recipes: Savoury Mushroom and Pea Rice. Savoury Mushroom and Pea Rice Stork Margarine and mushrooms are sautéed until tender, before adding a Knorr Vegetable Stock Pot. Leave this to simmer for 30 minutes, allowing the delicious flavours of the stock to absorb into the ingredients, and then add the peas. Quick, easy and versatile – serve with your favourite grilled meat for a warming, wholesome dish.