We’re in a season again of wholesale meal sharing, eating with friends, family and whoever. With food on my mind, I thought to share my way of preparing rice (white rice) and making a meal of it.
Why rice? Because it’s a staple and its easy to cook and it goes with many things. It isn’t choosy about what you eat with it (the Chinese know this too well, buffet galore). Most importantly, I cook it well.
Pour washed rice into a pot of water (boiling/hot/normal) with heat at an appropriate level and cook until white and soft enough for eating. Simple!
In this method you put just enough water so that it ‘dries’ up about when the rice is well cooked. After the water has boiled for a few minutes, you can reduce the heat and let it kind of simmer. Cooking rice in a little too much water and for a little too long tends to making ‘tuwo shinkafa,’ a rice pudding of sorts that goes with some soups/stews (miyan kuka, miyan taoshe etc) eaten with hand; common to the Hausas and some northern Nigerian tribes. It may be salted to taste, and flavoured with onions or black pepper, even with a seasoning cube. White rice may be served with honey and butter (truly), and with perhaps chopped sweet peppers or vegetable mixes (green peas, corn, cauliflower, carrots…). Some soups and stews work well. Red ‘stew’ is the norm in Nigeria and it goes well with bananas or fried plantain.
There are different varieties of rice, some cook faster than others, some more nutritious, while some swell more. ‘Popular’ Nigerian varieties include Ofada and Ekpoma. Take care to ‘clean’ them before cooking so that you don’t get to chew ‘cooked’ stones. There’s also Abakaliki rice. You can’t beat these varieties for taste, aroma, and nutrition.
We mostly eat imported rice (from Asia), cleaned and parboiled, thus less nutritious. It might even be GM (genetically modified). A common imported variety is called tomato rice, then there’re the others. And that is all I know. There are many here who have never had the pleasure of tasting local varieties.
Please take precautions to prevent accidents or disasters while cooking. Note also that the above method may result is a slight browning of rice at the bottom of the pot which is quite delicious when perfectly engineered.
As a general rule, rice is not to be stirred. Doing this upsets the channeling of heat to the top and may lead to variations in softness making it challengingly palatable. The heat localisation at the bottom may also result in toast/roast/burnt rice.
Put a fork or spoon through to the bottom and move slightly to one side to check whether the water is dry if the water level is below the rice level in the pot.
Rice would usually swell to about 3 to 4 times its volume when done. This should be a useful guide for determining how much water is needed. Evaporation isn’t much of a consideration with a pressure cooker.
There’s jollof rice and fried rice too, but they’re beyond the scope of this piece.