Sunday, 8 January 2012

How To Make Perfect Rice (and no machine)

A Happy New Year to you all! I hope that you all had a fantastic festive holiday and ate loads of great food. Or just ate loads. Consuming huge amounts of Quality Street is one of Christmas’s highlights for sure but I wouldn’t necessarily class them as ‘great’ food. However, once emptied, the tin is very handy for the storing of future magnificent baking projects! I do believe my Grandma has Quality Street tins that have housed many a Victoria sponge since the late 17th century, or so it would seem. So in their own little way, however vague, I guess Quality Street have had a hand in ‘great’ food there somewhere.

So we made it up to the Alps after Christmas to squeeze in a little snowboarding before the start of the new season on Mariquita. It's going to be a goody of a year onboard in 2012. We will be sailing to the UK for two regattas and have some new members of crew to meet very soon and train up in the ways of all things ‘Mariquita’. The old (less of that) remaining crew will be responsible for singing the sea shanties extra loud to make up for anybody who doesn’t know the words.

There will be delivery food and provisioning to start planning for the long sail to Gosport, Portsmouth in April, a trip which could take 3 weeks or so and there will also be the usual hope of fish catching and the freshest of sashimi eating along the way.  And of course the hope of flat calm seas…

But back to our little visit to the Alps before I start to worry too much about that one.

We stayed in a little self-catered wooden chalet and as these things go with self-catered accommodation; what it lacked in the way of saucepans it made up for in small red, beetly-type bugs which crawled out of the woodwork and hung out in the curtains and dropped occasionally from the ceiling onto our heads while we had dinner. Which was nice…

Anyhow. The thrust of this blog comes from a rather long conversation we had concerning rice and how best to cook it when faced with a kitchen minus a rice cooker (and in fact anything helpful like a sharp knife).

Now rice cookers are a new thing to me. I don’t have one and didn’t realise that so many people seem to have a fear of cooking rice in a saucepan. This is a shame because rice cookers are so big and I’m wondering how to tell George that he will have to keep his rice cooker in his garage because I need my kitchen space for useful things like plates. (We’re in the process of buying a real house on real solid ground. Very exciting)

Personal domestic issues aside, my rice cooking recommendations were kindly noted, have been tried and tested and I was told I must blog the technique because it was such a success. Hopefully I have saved at least one kitchen from one more expensive gadget. I’m sure that a lot of people know this one but for those who don’t, this never fails, makes perfect rice and is worth a try before you spend any money on a machine; which may then lead to the need for an extension. Although, saying that, if you do need and extension, my Dad is a great architect and would love the work.

Normally I just guess-timate the amount of rice, water and time and once you have cooked rice a few times following the instructions below you will then be able to do the same thing with the guessing and have the confidence that it will work. I promise!

 Okay, so for perfect rice every time without a machine or any other gadget then rice know-how, here it is;

 For 4 people you will need;
65g rice per person, 260g overall
300 ml of cold water
a good pinch of salt
one saucepan
cling film or 1 tight fitting lid


  • It’s all about 3’s with rice. I normally fill the saucepan with two thirds rice and the last third water. So when cooking rice for up to 6 people you can expect there to be no more than a fingers width of water above the rice in the pan. For now, put the measured amount of rice in the pan and then fill with the measured amount of water and make a mental note of how that looks. Add a little salt and stir. Now add a very good lid or a layer of cling film. There needs to be no way for any steam to escape. That’s the important bit! Cling film is great for this and don’t panic, it won't pop.
  • Now turn on the heat and bring the rice to a gentle boil. AS SOON as it starts to boil, turn the heat down to its lowest setting possible. The smallest flame, the lowest heat. Out of heat up to ten, I go down to a 2 on an electric hob and the smallest flame on a gas hob. So, so far it’s specific but easy, yes?

  • Keep the heat this way for approximately 16 minutes. And in NO circumstance take off the lid! It is the steam that is cooking your rice perfectly and if you take off the lid or the cling film the steam will escape and the water will not absorb. Lecture over, once the 16 minutes is over, turn off the heat.

  • BUT DO NOT TAKE OFF THE LID YET. Let the rice ‘rest’ without any sneaky peeking. It is still absorbing water at this stage and this is the crucial ‘fluffy’ rice making stage. If you used clingfilm then the clingfilm will suck itself down onto the rice which is great. Just leave it as it is.

  • You can leave it like this for as long as you need to which is great if you are cooking the rice in advance. But definitely leave the rice to rest for no less then 10 minutes. When you are due to serve it simply take the lid or cling film off and fluff up with a fork. To heat it up if you have left it for a while, simply put the rice over a gently heat and keep stirring it till it is well heated. 

  • There. It might look like a complicated method but do this a few times and it will become as easy as one, two, C for three (little Chinese take-away joke there).

Oh and it is known as the ‘absorption’ method which is in effect how a rice cooker works.

Once your rice is cooked you can get down to finishing that turkey curry. Or perhaps fry some onions, garlic and ginger in a frying pan and add a few beaten eggs to scramble, add a little soy sauce, some bean sprouts and possibly some cooked prawns. Stir in your cooked rice, mix well over a high heat and you have a little special-fried-rice on your hands.

A good start to 2012, I hope without too much 'lets all eat salad after Christmas'. It is still winter after all. 

Stay tuned for boat friendly recipes and an exciting programme for Mariquita and her crew. I’ll try not to go on too much about my new home that will be waiting for me in Suffolk. But let’s just say, I love this year already and it has only just begun.

Thanks for reading!