It’s a staple food and an essential meal-maker for millions of people

Jan Bilton





Food / Family Notices

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS As the Chinese proverb goes: ‘The smartest housewife cannot cook a meal without rice’. And over half the world’s population agree — rice is their staple food and an essential meal-maker. In China, Japan and the Philippines, for instance, a meal without rice is usually regarded as simply not a proper meal. Economical and versatile, rice makes a great base for a huge variety of meals — everything from a budget stirfry to a haute´ cuisine risotto. Rice is now cultivated in over 110 countries, in many different climates and environments. Variety is the life of rice. Five of the most popular are arborio, sushi, basmati, jasmine and black. The short-grained arborio has a chalky texture which is especially suited to risottos and other Mediterranean dishes. It can absorb large amounts of water while remaining firm. Sushi rice — also short grained — is high in pectin which enables the grains to stick together. Basmati is a long grain rice favoured by Indian cooks for its flavour and for being dry and fluffy when cooked. Jasmine is a soft, delicately fragrant and aromatic long grain rice, the perfect match for many Asian dishes. Black rice is high in antioxidants and fibre. According to a US university study black rice contains more anthocyanin antioxidants than blueberries. SUPER SEAFOOD RISOTTO Superbly morish. Ingredients ■ 3 Tbsp olive oil ■ 2 each: cloves garlic, small fennel bulbs, finely sliced ■ 1⁄2 tsp fennel seeds ■ 1 Tbsp tomato paste ■ 1 cup arborio rice ■ 3⁄4 cup white wine ■ 1.25 litres fish (preferably) or chicken stock ■ 8 cherry tomatoes, halved ■ Seafood: 1 cleaned squid hood, cut into 2cm rings ■ 150g skinned and boned salmon, cut into 3cm cubes ■ 200g raw prawns, deveined and shelled ■ Seasonings: 75g parmesan cheese, finely grated ■ 25g butter, chopped ■ 2 Tbsp lemon juice ■ 1/2 cup chopped parsley Method Heat the oil in a large heavy frying pan on medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and fennel and cook until soft. Add the fennel seeds. Cook for a few seconds then add the tomato paste. Stir in the rice and cook for two minutes until the grains are coated in oil. Add the wine and simmer for two minutes. Bring the stock to the boil in a saucepan. Add a ladle of hot stock to the rice and stir until it has been absorbed. Repeat the ladles until the rice is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes. Add the squid and prawns to the rice, stir gently, then add the salmon. Cook on low until the prawns turn pink. Stir in the parmesan and butter, until melted. Add more stock if necessary. The mixture should be saucy. Drizzle with lemon juice and garnish with parsley. — Serves 4 TRAY-BAKED BUTTERFLIED CHICKEN WITH LEMON RICE A one-dish meal. Two tablespoons of dried dill leaves could replace the fresh dill. I used 90-second basmati rice. Ingredients ■ 1 each: large onion, garlic clove, thinly sliced ■ 1 tsp each: cumin seeds, ground cinnamon, turmeric ■ 1/4 cup lemon juice ■ 1 Tbsp olive oil ■ salt and pepper to taste ■ 1.1kg butterflied chicken ■ 8 large Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved ■ 250g 90-second basmati rice or cooked leftover basmati ■ 30g dill sprigs, chopped Method Preheat the oven to 190C. Place the onion, garlic, spices and lemon juice in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the chicken snugly. Add the oil and seasonings and stir well. Place the chicken on top, breast-side up. Cover loosely with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Arrange the Brussels sprouts evenly around the chicken. Cover and bake for a further 30 minutes. Remove the foil. Lift the chicken onto a plate. Stir in the rice and most of the dill, mixing well into the pan ingredients. Return the chicken to the pan. Continue roasting — uncovered — for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining dill on top. Chopped tomato can be added for extra colour. — Serves 4-6 BRAISED VEG & BLACK RICE A one-dish meal to serve as a main or side. Cut the pumpkin into approximately 2cm cubes. Ingredients ■ 1 large onion, diced ■ 2 Tbsp olive oil ■ 2 cups peeled, seeded and cubed pumpkin ■ freshly ground salt and black pepper to taste ■ 1 tsp cumin seeds ■ 1 red or green capsicum ■ 1 cup peas ■ 2 cups cooked black rice Method Saute´ the onion in the olive oil on medium heat until softened. Add the cubed pumpkin and seasonings. Cover and cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin is just tender. Seed the capsicum and remove the ribs. Cut into 2.5cm squares. Add to the pan with the peas. Cover and cook for five minutes. Stir in the black rice adding a little water if too dry. Heat through. Great served topped with toasted cashew nuts, chopped hard-boiled eggs or diced feta. — Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side JASMINE CHICKEN CAKES Ingredients ■ 1 3⁄4 cups cooked Jasmine rice ■ 500g minced chicken ■ 2 Tbsp yoghurt ■ 1 tsp sambal oeleck or chilli paste ■ 2 spring onions, diced ■ 1 clove garlic, crushed ■ 1 cup panko crumbs ■ 2-3 Tbsp peanut oil Method Combine the cold, cooked rice with the chicken. Add the yoghurt, sambal oeleck, spring onions and garlic and mix well. Take heaped tablespoons of the mixture and form into small patties. Coat in breadcrumbs. Chill and store, until required. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Saute´ the patties two to three minutes each side, until cooked and golden. Excellent served with a dip of peanut satay sauce or yoghurt. — Makes about 30