‘Fragrant Brown Basmati Rice’ – p.203


If, like me, you’ve learned a lot about cooking from reading various recipes and methods online, on blogs, newspaper sites, and food webzines, you’ll be aware of a phenomenon lurking below the line in the comments sections that’s so common as to be almost universal; On a recipe gratin dauphinois, you might see a comment that says ‘I tried this last night. I substituted the potatoes for parsnips, and used yoghurt in the place of cream, as we’re trying to reduce our cholesterol intake. I was cooking it for the kids, so I left out the salt and I was in a bit of a hurry, so I cut twenty minutes from the cooking time. Very disappointing results, I wouldn’t recommend this recipe at all. One star.’ It leaves one wondering quite what the author of a recipe is supposed to do. Just suck it up I guess.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have recipes that are so vague as to render themselves almost pointless. A beloved but slightly quirky Indian recipe book that sits on my shelf (and, frankly, rarely comes off it) contains a recipe that pretty much goes ‘boil the pork, then add the chillies‘, leaving the bemused cook to divine duration, heat-level and intended result for themselves (though, I must confess, the recipe does appeal to me, in an odd kind of way.)

Today’s Real Fast Food recipe falls between those two stools slightly, leaving both myself, for substituting an ingredient and therefore rendering myself unqualified to make any kind of judgement, and The Sainted Nigel (or at least his editor), for being unhelpfully inspecific, slightly to blame, but producing a satisfactory enough result nonetheless. All’s well that ends well, right?

My crime was to purchase rice labeled ‘Brown Long-grain’ rather than the specified ‘Brown Basmati’. In my defence, I did so because that was what the shop had, but I’m not in the game of making excuses here.

The book’s was to be inspecific about the amount water in which the rice was to be boiled which, in a recipe that uses the absorption method of rice-cooking, seems a little weird to me (if the rice is meant to absorb a given quantity of water in a specific amount of time, it stands to reason one needs to know how much water that would be, no?)

Anyway, here’s what I did.

First, I boiled 225g of brown rice in plenty of rapidly boiling water for five minutes before draining it in a sieve. Whilst I did so, I tempered half a teaspoon of turmeric, three cloves, a short length of cinnamon bark, eight green cardamom pods and two bay leaves in a little hot oil. I added the rice to the tempered spices, covered with water (but not a specific amount, right?), salted and then bought to the boil, before sticking the lid on and simmering slowly for 15 minutes.

Now, when I took off the lid, I was told the rice would have absorbed all the water, and would be ready to set aside to steam, but when I did, I was greeted by a fairly substantial layer of boiling water. Was it my fault for using different rice? Was it the book’s fault for not saying how much water to use in the second boil? Reader, we will never know.

In a snap judgement, I figured Brown Rice was pretty resilient stuff, and put the heat up to a high medium and clapped the lid back on, lifting to check the water levels every couple of minutes. Sure enough, before long, the rice had absorbed the lot, and still retained a pleasant al-dente integrity. I left it to steam for a further ten minutes as I put the rest of dinner on the table, then stirred in a large knob of butter, the juice of half a lemon, and a smidgen more salt.

We ate the rice alongside a pork tenderloin fillet I’d had sitting in the freezer for a while, fried in plenty of butter, and a whole roasted cauliflower, with a kind of almond-pesto-meets-salsa-verde from this marvellous recipe in the New York Times.

The rice put me somewhat in mind of the delicious lemon rice you get at the legendary Rasa in Stoke Newington, but with the added chewy wholesomeness of the brown rice and richness of the butter.

All in all, despite a bit of a wobble, something I’ll make again, and would recommend to one and all.

Buy your own copy of Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Fast Food’ HERE.


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