Taking rice to the next level | How to cook the perfect rice

Taking rice to the next level – How to cook the perfect rice

Recently we have rekindled an old love, that being our love of rice. It is a wonderful versatile food substance that you can do so much with. And yet as a nation we tend to stick the usual suspects, boiled, fried or if it’s a special occasion then maybe a pilau.

Well we have been playing with rice lately and have decided that we should eat it far more often than we tend to do. The reason for this change of heart, simple really, we started to look at rice from a different perspective.

I cooked a curry one night, lovely chicken madras, except there was a problem. My parents had recently brought round some home grown chillies, they looked like a standard chillies, plump and green or red. They sure didn’t look like the distant cousin of the ghost chilli that they turned out to be. Sat there with a bubbling pot of molten lava I started to look for ways to tame the beast. I exhausted my usual trick of adding cream and yoghurt, on the plus side it did make the curry taste even more wonderful but alas did little to reduce the heat. As a last resort I decided to add pineapple and apple chunks to the rice so that my diners would get some relief from the chillies as they ate the cooling fruits. To a greater extent it did work, yes we were all sat there with tissues for runny noses and eyes, and yes the conversation was dominated with talk of chillies and their power but we all survived and all plates where mostly empty. What I did take away from the occasion was a keen desire to try other combinations with my rice recipe.

Many people have a problem with the cooking of rice complaining that it usually ends up soggy or undercooked and that it was hard to hit the sweet spot for perfect cooked rice. Well rest assured readers that this is a problem for you no more. With my fool proof recipe below you will be turning out wonderfully flavourful fluffy rice.

So here is an example of a wonderfully diverse rice dish that with go with a wide range of meals. I think that if you view rice the same way you would a slice of bread, or a pizza base or even a bowl of pasta (i.e. a blank canvas) then suddenly your imagination is flooded with possibilities. Add what you have in the cupboards, what is almost past its sell by date or just what you have specifically bought to try, the point is whatever you try it’s amazing what comes out at the end.

How to cook the perfect rice

Ingredients:

  • 250g rice (basmati rice is a good choice)
  • 25g butter; unsalted
  • 1 large onion finely sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic diced or crushed

Make a spice mix with the following:

  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1tsp of coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 dried chillies
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Half a dozen of green cardamoms

You will also need:

  • 500ml water
  • 1tsp of turmeric

Our additions to the above included:

  • A can of pineapple chunks
  • Handful of sultanas
  • Handful of whole almonds
  • A couple of apples

Method:

Wash the rice in running cold water, tradition says that you should wash it seven times till the water runs clear, and then leave in a final bowl of clean water for at least an hour to soak.

In a clean dry frying pan over a gentle heat cook the spice mix for 2 minutes to help waken the spices up. When done add to a pestle and mortar or spice grinder and turn to a powder.

In a heavy based saucepan that will have a tight fitting heavy lid add some butter and oil to heat up. When hot add the onions and cook till soft, then add your garlic and turn the heat to medium low and cook till golden in colour, about 20 minutes.

Drain your rice so it’s quite dry.

Add the spice mix and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the rice and turmeric and cook for 2-3 minutes stirring constantly then finally add your water and salt. Put on the lid and leave to come to the boil. Once it is boiling gently start timing 15 minutes.

NO MATTER WHAT EVEN IF THE KITCHEN COLLAPSES AROUND YOU DO NOT TAKE THE LID OFF THE SAUCEPAN, NOT EVEN FOR A PEEK, NOT JUST ONCE, NOT EVER… EVER!

After fifteen minutes remove the pan from the heat and set aside, and just in case you’re curious about having a peek please refer to the above shouty sentence. Let the rice stand for a further 15-20 minutes to rest and finish cooking.

Melt some butter in a frying pan and cook the almonds and sultanas for 5 minutes whilst you wait.
You can also core and dice you apples and drain the pineapple.

Finally when the rice is done, decant it into a large serving bowl and add all the other pieces and give it a good stir, and serve.

Taking rice to the next level - How to cook the perfect riceTaking rice to the next level & How to cook the perfect rice

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What’s Cooking – Layer Potato Bake with Sausage, Mushroom & Onion

Layer Potato Bake with Sausage, Mushroom & Onion

This is a recipe my Mum used to make from time to time, and now that I am all grown up I make it… from time to time; though not often enough according to Mark 🙂

My Layer Potato Bake includes sausages, mushrooms and onions but you can adapt it to suit your needs. If you don’t have or don’t like sausage stick some bacon in… Not a fan of bacon? Not a biggie, just skip the meat part entirely and make a veggie version.

In a minute I will give you just one of the possibilities but really the filling options are endless and it is really up to you what you will stick between the potato layers. Some of our other favourites used in variation of this recipe are: peppers, sweet corn, grilled chicken, tomatoes and basil (not all at once, let’s just make that clear)

Ingredients list to make my Sausage, Mushroom & Onion version of Layer Potato Bake:

  • 12 large potatoes
  • 3 Polish sausages (they were called Śląska)
  • 3 large onions
  • 150g mushrooms (any mushrooms but field ones are the best)
  • 150g spicy cheddar cheese
  • 100g grated mozzarella cheese
  • Salt, pepper, sweet paprika to taste
  • Splash of olive oil for frying

Method:

We have to start with the potatoes. Peel and part boil them whole but ensure you just part boil; they can’t be overcook as you will not be able to slice them. I normally cook them for 15 minutes counting from the moment the water started to boil in my pot. Of course don’t forget to add salt into your potatoes for enhanced flavour.

Once they are cooked, drain and put them aside to cool and turn your oven on to 180C.

Now, it is time to start working on the rest of the filling.

Chop sausages, onions and mushrooms and get ready to fry them a bit.

Normally I would start with sausages. They are a bit fatty so I will have a nice amount of fat in my frying pan to fry the onions in. Just in case there isn’t enough add some olive oil. Fry your onions until lightly coloured, after 5 minutes add mushrooms. Just before the onions and mushrooms are ready add your spices – in my case I only use salt, fresh cracked pepper and sweet paprika.

Depending on the cheese you have, you might want to grate it or cut it into fine chunks. This time I used grated mozzarella (leftover after pizza night) and sliced spicy cheddar, which I cut into small cubes.

Now, it should be the perfect time to slice our potatoes. Ideally you want them about 0.5cm thick. Once all chopping is done, let’s build 🙂

Oh, you will need an oven proof dish with a lid. Add a little bit of olive oil, just to grease the bottom to avoid any potatoes sticking into it.

Layer Potato Bake with Sausage, Mushroom & Onion..

Step one: layer of potatoes.

Step two: layer of onion and mushroom mix.

Step three: layer of sausage.

Step four: layer of cheese

Repeat 🙂

You can add a little bit of cheeses on top of your potato layer as well if you want, I added some mozzarella at this point. You just keep filling until you run out of ingredients, but remember a potato layer needs to be second to last and then a pile of cheese on top to finish the dish.

Layer Potato Bake with Sausage, Mushroom & Onion...

Bake in the over covered for about 1hour. 45minutes into your bake remove the lid to allow the cheese to crisp on top.

Layer Potato Bake with Sausage, Mushroom & Onion.

Serve with salad… or not 😉

The bake can be a bit messy when you take it out of the oven. Everything is freshly cooked and it might not keep its form, but after few hours when everything is nice and cool, you will be able to cut a perfect piece and it should keep its shape… This way you can use it as a packed lunch for next day. Just pop into a microwave for few minutes and job jobbed… lunch is served.

Layer Potato Bake with Sausage, Mushroom and Onion

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