Why rice is really nice
Rice is an annual that is related to grass plants such as wheat, oat and barley. It is a sub-aquatic green grassy plant that grows 50-100cm tall. Each plant has many heads of tiny rice grains that become a golden colour when ready to harvest. The rice grain has three main layers.
The hull, a hard outer shell is inedible and removed when the grain is milled. Rice bran is the layer underneath this that is the bran and germ layer. This remains on the grains for brown rice giving it its brown colouring. The endosperm is the final white grain that is hard and contains lots of starch.
Rice is carbohydrate rich, meaning it is high in energy. It is low fat, gluten free, low in salt, cholesterol and sugar. It has no additives or preservatives.
There are three types of rice that separate the varieties. These are short grain, medium grain and long grain.
- Short grain – This is soft , has a sticky texture when cooked and appears glossy. It is perfect for cooking desserts and puddings and for foods that require the rice to stick together. Varieties of short grain rice are Japanese style and pearl.
- Medium grain– Medium grain rice still has a tendency to stick together but it is not as sticky as short grain rice. It produces moist tender grains when cooked and you can find in either brown or white rice. Varieties of medium grain rice are Calrose and Arborio rice. The Calrose is a very adaptable variety while the Arborio rice is chalky and suitable for Risotto and Paella as it absorbs flavours very well.
- Long grain – Long grain rice has a firmer texture and a less sticky consistency. It has an off-white colour and is bland in taste. Varieties of long grain rice are Long, a firmer texture rice that is suited to savoury flavours, Fragrant which is jasmine style rice suited to Thai cuisine and lastly Basmati that elongates when cooked and is specific to Indian cuisine.
How to select and store rice
Choose rice that is devoid of stones or other debris and that is uniform in colour so as not to contain mould. You need to store in a dry cool place in a container with a tight fitting lid.
Best ways to cook rice
Rice is suitable for sweet and savoury dishes. You can use both the boiling or absorption method to cook rice. This can be done on the stovetop, oven or in the microwave. Once it is cooked you can fry, bake and sauté it into other dishes.
How to cook rice
On the stovetop – in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid, using 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of cold water, bring it to the boil and boil for 5 minutes. Leave the lid on pan, turn the heat off and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
In the microwave – Place 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of cold water. Then microwave on high for 12 minutes. Increase the cooking time if you increase the volume by 3 minutes for each extra cup of rice.
If you want the grains to separate easily after cooking you should wash your rice until the water runs clear. This removes the starch from the outside of the grains.