Friday, 13 April 2012

The Versatility of Rice - Food - Cooking Tips

After reading this article, you will think of rice as far more than just an ordinary kitchen staple. Instead, youll be delighted with its extraordinary versatility. Rice is so versatile it can be used for a multitude of things. It forms the basis for a fabulous range of tasty, tempting recipes from snacks, breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes through to the final dessert. You can even drink a toast with wine made from rice. We can flavour food with it in the form of rice vinegar and we can even write on it by making rice paper. We can also fry it to make the Chinese fried rice specialities.

Where does rice come from?

Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima. As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East and South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the West Indies. It is the grain with the second-highest worldwide production, after maize (corn).

Here in Spain where we live, there are two rice-growing regions. The traditional Valencia rice, the one used for paella, is a round, medium-short grain rice. It has a marvellous capacity for absorbing the flavours, with which it cooks - chicken, pork, olive oil, seafood, vegetables. You have to take care not to overcook it, though, so it does not become sticky. But Spain today has another developing rice-growing region, in Andaluca. The variety of rice grown here is long-grain. This is the type favoured for pilaff. Grown for export to northern Europe, long-grain rice is only beginning to be used in Spanish cooking. Never for paella!

There are many types of rice, all of which are used for different purposes and in different cuisines around the world. Arborio, Brown short-grain, Brown long-grain, White short-grain, White long-grain, Black glutinous, White glutinous, Basmati, Wild rice, Jasmine rice and various blends of brown and white wild rice.

Rice is the most important grain with regard to human nutrition and caloric intake, providing more than one fifth of the calories consumed worldwide by the human species. Rice cultivation is well-suited to countries and regions with low labour costs and high rainfall, as it is labour-intensive to cultivate and requires ample water. The traditional method for cultivating rice is flooding the fields while, or after, setting the young seedlings. This simple method requires sound planning and servicing of the water damming and channelling, but reduces the growth of less robust weed and pest plants that have no submerged growth state, and deters vermin. While flooding is not mandatory for the cultivation of rice, all other methods of irrigation require higher effort in weed and pest control during growth periods and a different approach for fertilizing the soil.

In Valencia, where the Moors taught the Spanish all about irrigation systems, water travels 30 miles through canals from the reservoirs in the mountains down to the rice fields south of the City of Valencia. Rice can be grown practically anywhere, even on a steep hill or mountain. Although its parent species are native to South Asia and certain parts of Africa, centuries of trade and exportation have made it commonplace in many cultures worldwide.

Once we have grown our rice, what can we use it for?

We can eat it in many forms. Rice Krispies for our breakfast cereal. Rice cake, using ground rice flour. We can use the different types of rice to make paella, risotto, Indian and Chinese meals and for desserts - we can make rice puddings, baked rice, souffls, strudels, pancakes and even use it in ice cream.

The Healthy Option

Nutritionists believe that rice is more important to our health and energy than previously thought. It is high in complex carbohydrates and has virtually no salt, sugar or fat. Half a cup of cooked rice supplies about 85 calories equivalent to one slice of bread. Brown rice is particularly good for vegetarians. It is more nutritious than white rice because it still has the bran layer intact. The bran layer is high in dietary fibre and B-group vitamins, plus important minerals including potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc. The bran layer in brown rice is a rich source of both poly-and mono-unsaturated oils and the powerful anti-oxidant Vitamin E. Rice bran oil, found in brown rice has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol levels. The bran layer is also rich in fibre, a useful laxative.

Rice is the least allergy-producing grain, making it ideal for many people with allergies or food intolerances. It is easy to digest and, because rice is gluten free, it is the major cereal grain for people with celiac disease a sensitivity to gluten, the protein in wheat and other cereals

How to cook rice

There are four ways to cook rice. You can steam it, microwave, bake and boil it.

Absorption (Steaming) Method: Combine 1 cups of rice (300g) with 3 cups (750ml) of water in a medium heavy-based saucepan and cover tightly. Bring it to the boil and then reduce the heat to its lowest setting. Cook for 10 minutes. It is important that you dont remove the lid during the cooking time. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand, covered for a further 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Microwave Method: combine 1 cups of rice (300g) with 3 cups (750ml) of boiling water in a microwave proof bowl. Cook, uncovered on HIGH for about 10 minutes or until the rice is just tender. Stir halfway through cooking. Cover the bowl and let it stand for 5 minutes to complete the absorption process. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Baked Method: Combine 1 cups of rice (300g) with 2 cups (625ml) of water in an ovenproof dish, stir well. Cover tightly with foil or a lid and bake in a moderate oven for 25 minutes or until the rice is tender. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Boiling Method: Bring 8 cups of water (2 litres) to the boil in a large saucepan and add 1 cups (300g) of rice. Stir to separate the grains and boil uncovered for 12 minutes or until the rice is tender

A special rice cooker or rice steamer will provide excellent and consistent results. Any spare cooked rice can be frozen and reused simply by placing in the microwave and set to defrost.

We are currently constructing a section in Bill & Sheilas Cookbook where we will be posting hundreds of recipes that use all of the different rice types listed above. There will be everything from Caribbean rice and peas to Chicken Biryani, Risotto to Thai Fried Rice and everything in-between. All of our recipes are collected from free recipe sites or gifted to us from chefs all around the world. Therefore, they are authentic. Our Indian rice dishes for example, come from real Indian chefs. My daughter-in-law is of Goan descent and her mother has provided us with dozens of genuine and authentic recipes from Goa and other Indian states. Pay us a visit and get the best out of this nutritious and versatile ingredient.


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