Go look in your cupboard. I’ll bet there’s long grain rice, plain or converted, jasmine or basmati, brown, instant and maybe even wild, which isn’t rice at all, of course. Can you think of three things you do with it besides put it alongside a piece of meat?
Usually the understudy, not the star, rice is worth showcasing in the right recipe. Try one of these and see if you don’t agree with me.
There are two basic ways to cook rice — the so-called pasta method using lots of water and draining it at the end, or the measured method, in which the rice absorbs all the cooking liquid. The latter is typically what appears on the package from the store so I will give instructions for the former.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil just as you would to cook macaroni. Stir in 1/3 to 1/2 cup rice per person; cover and simmer over the lowest heat possible until it is tender — 14 minutes for most white and about 30 minutes for brown. Strain in a colander. I let the last of the water drain back into the pot then put the colander over it. I put the pot cover over the rice and bring the water up to a boil for just a minute or two. This step isn’t essential but it makes for fluffier rice.
Don’t be put off by the name. It’s called dirty because the meat turns the rice a brownish hue that is quite appetizing, especially after you’ve tasted it.
Just about any variety of long-grain rice will work here but I would choose the cheap and cheerful out-of-the bag or box, whatever is on sale and it will work. This is also a great opportunity to get your family to eat brown rice — they won’t even know.
I usually make this dish after I’ve roasted a chicken because I can use all the giblets that no one wants anyway. The recipe calls for livers but feel free to add hearts and gizzards, too. This makes 6 to 8 servings but leftovers are divine.
1 tbsp. each vegetable oil and butter or margarine, divided
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
1/2 tsp. each ground cumin and coriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 lb. lean ground beef
3 hot Italian sausages, removed from their casings
1/2 lb. chicken livers, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth — made from bouillon mix is fine
2 fresh or 4 dried bay leaves
1/2 tsp. each dried thyme and oregano
4 cups cooked long-grain rice, white or brown
1/2 tsp. bottled hot pepper sauce, optional
Heat about half the oil and butter in a large, non-stick frying pan. Fry onion and celery until soft and starting to brown. Add green pepper, garlic and jalapeño and cook, stirring, until fragrant — 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add remaining oil and butter to pan and add cumin, coriander and cayenne.
Stir until the spices are coated in oil. Turn the heat up to high and add ground beef and sausage meat. Brown thoroughly then add chicken livers. Cook, stirring, until there is no pink left in the meat. Add salt, pepper, broth, bay leaves, thyme and oregano. Return cooked vegetables to the pan and stir to combine. Cook over medium until most of the moisture has evaporated. Stir in rice and heat through. Add hot sauce and serve.
Nut and Raisin Pulau
You may see versions of this in cookbooks as pilaf, and it’s really just a mixture of rice cooked in flavoured liquid with vegetables, meat, fruit and nuts to create an exotic and aromatic dish that can stand on its own or accompany something spicy.
This recipe makes a fantastic lunch with a side salad but it will stop them in their tracks next to roasted chicken or pork. I choose wonderfully fragrant basmati rice for this but it would be equally delicious with jasmine. Count on four generous servings on its own or six as a side.
1-1/2 cups basmati rice
1/4 cup butter, divided
3/4 cup whole unsalted cashews
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 tsp. firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken broth
1 large pinch saffron threads
1/2 small cinnamon stick or 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves
Rinse rice in running cold water until the water runs clear. Place in a bowl and cover with more cold water; allow to soak about half an hour.
Melt about half the butter in a large non-stick pan and fry cashews and raisins until the cashews are golden brown and the raisins have plumped up. Add brown sugar and nutmeg and cook, stirring, until the nuts and raisins are well coated. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add remaining butter to pan and fry onion until soft and starting to colour. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant.
Drain rice thoroughly and add to pan; cook, stirring until rice is starting to look chalky. Add broth, saffron, cinnamon stick, cardamom and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a bare simmer.
Cook 10 minutes, until all the liquid has absorbed and the rice is tender. Uncover, fluff rice with a fork and stir in cashews and raisins; serve at once.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her
c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s,
NL, A1E 4N1.