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Thu Aug 25 01:20:43 SAST 2016

Rice to the occasion

Andrea Burgener | 02 March, 2016 00:30
Andrea Burgener. File photo
Image by: Supplied / Times Media Group

Back when Atari tennis was the acme of home TV gaming, frosted-bottle-green was a cool colour for a car, and fibre was something you ate for breakfast rather than what got you online, the rice we always ate at home was Tastic parboiled.

It took decades before supermarket and deli shelves would be lined with decent "real" rice, sans that hateful parboiled glassy quality. There was, of course, really good rice to be bought in Chinese and Indian superettes, but it seldom seemed to make its way outside of these quarters.

Now good rice is everywhere, but it seems that availability has not been accompanied by information. It's the question I get asked most often: how the hell do I cook rice properly? And it's not surprising that this is so. Recipes for risotto, biryani and pilaf abound, but a pot of the plain stuff? Most recipe books just say "serve with rice". No wonder that unless one's in a home in which the ways of rice have been passed down for many generations, the host needs sedatives or a strong drink before tackling the pot of rice. This need not be so.

Many years ago my late friend Braam Kruger (alias Kitchenboy), a brilliant cook, taught me his fantastically simple and foolproof method for cooking rice.

This works for steaming (well, boiling really) any amount of either short or long grain rice, regardless of pot size and shape. If you're going to use the short grain for sushi, though, that's a whole other process which shouldn't be approached lightly.

So: start by putting the rice in a large bowl with lots of water and rinsing well, mixing with your hands to help, changing the water until it's hardly cloudy. Drain in a sieve (reserve all water for the garden). Place rice in heavy-bottomed pot which can contain at least three times the volume of the rice. Now, making sure rice is level, pour in enough water so that the height of the water above the rice is equal to the length of your index finger from the tip to just above the first joint; in other words about 3cm. Really, this works. Bring water and rice to the boil with the lid on, then turn heat to lowest and place lid askance so that a little steam can escape. Cook for anything from 20 to 30 minutes or until you can hear the rice at the bottom start to pop and crackle. While the time will increase a bit with the rice amount, the highly scientific patented finger measurement stays the same. Scrape base with a spoon if unsure: a very thin layer should be getting crispy. Remove from heat and cover completely until serving.

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