Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Boiled rice

I reviewed a book called The English Breakfast by Kaori O'Connor in the Guardian at the weekend. Here is the review; and here, for free rather than for £65, are Colonel Arthur Robert Kenney Herbert's complete instructions for cooking rice.

"For the rice there is only one method, easily learnt. Having cleaned and sifted the rice -- say six ounces -- prepare a large vessel of boiling water, a gallon not too much, put into the water a dessertspoonful of salt, and the juice of half a lemon to preserve the whiteness of the grains. When the water is at a gallop -- fully boiling -- throw in the rice, and stir it round with a wooden spoon; watch the clock for 10 minutes, stirring every now and then; after 10 minutes, test a few grains by pinching them between finger and thumb; as soon as soft, probably in 12 or 13 minutes according to the size of the grains, stop the boiling instantly by a dash of cold water, immediately remove the vessel, and drain off every drop of water from the rice, returning the latter to the now dry, hot pot in which it was boiled. Shake well, replace this upon the hot plate, or put it in front of the fire (a moderate heat required), and cover the rice with a folded cloth -- do not use the lid -- shake the vessel now and then, and after 10 minutes' rest the rice will be fit to serve. The last process is necessary to dry out and disintegrate the grains.

"N.b. Never soak rice before boiling, or put it into cold water, as some advise."

The colonel is sound, I think. As I have written here before, I have trouble with the absorption method of cooking rice: after even my most successful efforts, the rice is stickier than it would be after boiling. I use Tilda Basmati; I toss it into boiling water (sometimes salted, sometimes not -- it doesn't seem to make much difference to the texture); I boil it for 10 minutes. It is perfect every time.

When I was researching my book, Tilda assured me that its rice did not need pre-washing. It does not discolour, in my experience; so acidulating the water, as the colonel advises, is not necessary. I do not see why you need to stop the water boiling if you are going to drain the rice immediately. No doubt I should allow the rice to dry in the pan; but I usually let it give off steam for a minute or two in the sieve, before serving.

1 comment:

a certain sinclair said...

Even though I say it myself - I'm fairly expert at cooking rice. (My partner is amazed at this quirky proficiency) The method I find infallible for long-grain rice (NOT arborio or calasparra) was taught me by a Thai cook.
1) Put a small amount of oil - say 2 teaspoons - in pot. Add heat.
2)Add rice to pot - allowing a palmful of rice per person plus one extra.
3)Quickly stir rice around in hot oil to coat.
4)Add cold water to pot to between half an inch and three quarters of an inch above the level of the rice.
5) DO NOT ADD SALT. DO NOT STIR rice. Put lid on pot. Put heat on full and, without ever removing lid, bring to the boil.
6) As soon as water hits boiling turn heat to lowest possible setting for 5 minutes.
7) Turn off heat. DO NOT REMOVE LID. Allow pot to sit on turned off heat source for 3 minutes.
8) After 3 mins lift lid and you should have perfectly prepared rice.
The good thing about this method is that REGARDLESS OF HOW MUCH rice is in the pot always put an amount of cold water in that comes to between half and three quarters of an inch above the level of the rice.
I used this method for saffron rice, jasmine rice, pilau rice, clove rice simply by adding saffron or turmeric or cloves to the oil (which can be any flavoured oil you want) at the beginning of the process. Dead simple. And it works.
Thanks for an interesting blog