On a visit to my supermarket just prior to lockdown the only rice I could find was 90-second (Tilda Lime & Coriander). And yes, I love it because it’s flavoursome, instant and can be used in many recipes calling for cooked rice. However, the empty shelves indicated to me that Kiwis love all rice varieties and obviously a food column on the subject was required. Luckily, I managed to source an assortment at my local greengrocer.
Rice varieties are categorized as long, medium or short grain. Long-grain rice is thin, dainty and pointed and best for pilaf, stir-fries and dishes in which separated grains are required. Basmati is favoured by Indian cooks for its flavour, and Jasmine — a soft, delicately fragrant and aromatic long-grain white rice — is perfect for other Asian dishes.
Medium and short-grain rice are plump, starchy and absorbent, suitable for risottos and other Mediterranean dishes. They can absorb large amounts of liquid while remaining firm. Japan’s sushi rice is also a short grain rice but is high in pectin which enables the grains to stick together.
However, in these unusual times you may have to substitute long grain rice for a medium. Or — if in dire straits — substitute barley, couscous or quinoa for rice.
Sweet soy sauce or Kecap Manis is popular in Indonesia and is thicker than other soy sauces. It’s available from supermarkets but to make your own combine a 1/4 cup each of common soy sauce and brown sugar in a saucepan on medium heat. Simmer until reduced to a maple syrup consistency. It will continue to thicken while cooling.
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 teaspoon sambal oeleck or chilli paste
1-2 tablespoons rice bran oil
250g raw prawn cutlets, shelled and deveined
2-3 cups cold cooked long-grain rice eg basmati
4 spring onions, chopped
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce eg ketcap manis
1-2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 eggs, pan-fried
Combine the garlic, onion and chilli in a blender and mix to a paste. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and sauté the paste for about 3 minutes.
Add the prawns and stir-fry until well coloured, about 4 minutes. Stir in the rice and spring onions, mixing until hot. Sprinkle with sweet soy sauce and fish sauce and mix through.
Place half the mixture in a pudding plate and upturn onto a serving plate. Top with an egg. Repeat. Serves 2.
RISOTTO WITH PUMPKIN
Short-grain rice is best but a medium grain is okay.
100g spinach, silver beet or kale, coarse stems removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 each: onions, large cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice or similar
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine or water
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Peel and seed the pumpkin. Cut into 2cm cubes. Thinly slice the spinach/silver beet/kale leaves.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Sauté the onions until softened then stir in the garlic. Add the rice and stir to coat in the oil.
Meanwhile, bring the stock to the boil. Gradually stir into the rice. Boil for 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin and wine or water. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked and the pumpkin soft.
Stir in the spinach until it wilts. Great topped with pumpkin or sunflower seeds, a little crumbled feta or finely grated parmesan and thyme sprigs. Serves 4.
Jambalaya — a Creole cuisine classic. It's a one-pot meal — hearty, spicy and incredibly flavoursome. During lockdown you may need to substitute bacon for chorizo, or barley or medium-grain rice for long-grain rice.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 capsicums, seeded and diced
400g skinned and boned chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 small, smoked chorizo sausages, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1-2 cups chicken stock
400g can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup long grain rice
2 teaspoons smoked or plain paprika
1 cup raw prawn cutlets, shelled and deveined
Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan on medium. Add the onion and capsicums. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken and oregano. Cook until the chicken colours. Add the chorizo, garlic and tomato paste and cook for about 1 minute.
Add 1 cup of the chicken stock, the tomatoes, rice and paprika. Reduce the heat to low. Cover tightly and cook until the rice is tender and the liquid almost absorbed, about 20 minutes. Add more chicken stock if required.
Add the prawns and cook until pink, 3-5 minutes. Great garnished with coriander or chopped spring onions. Serves 6.