Rice is one of those things that seems dead easy to cook. I mean all you have to do is throw it in a pot and boil it right? Wrong! The next time you plan on wowing your family with a gorgeous curry recipe, or a slow-cooked stew - remember that the rice also needs some TLC.
Like most things, it's attention to detail that really counts and if you find that your rice is just, well... average - then please read through the list of crimes below that might be preventing you from reaching rice perfection.
1. Not Rinsing
My mom always said “you never know who touched that rice”. Rinse your rice in a sieve under cold water to remove dirt, but more importantly to remove excess starch that can make your rice claggy.
Do you just throw the rice and the water in the pot, with scant consideration for measurements? Flying by the seat of your pants? Technically, you should double the amount of water as rice. But honestly, who has time to get the measuring jug out?
Shortcut: pour the rice into a pot and add water until it is 2cm (or the length of your index finger up to the first knuckle) over the level of the raw rice. This method has worked consistently for me regardless of the amount or type of rice I am cooking or the size/shape of the pot.
3. Forgetting the salt
Always add a pinch of salt to prevent bland rice. It sounds obvious but so many people miss this step.
4. No time for soaking
Soaking rice before cooking will reduce cooking time, but come on - if you have time to soak your rice, why would you need to speed up cooking time?
Shortcut: Bring the pot to the boil, turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting, and leave it alone for 20 minutes. Plenty of time for you to go and have a relaxing soak in the tub of your own.
5. Lifting the lid
Don’t lift the lid. Seriously. Just leave it alone. The steam trapped inside the pot is part of the cooking process. If you keep lifting the lid, there will be less water in the pot and your rice will seem under-cooked after the 20 minutes. Can’t stop yourself? Consider a pot with a glass lid.
I am talking to you stirrers out there. You know who you are. Those unlucky souls that see a pot cooking and are compelled to stir it. Stop it. Not only does it require the lid to be lifted (see point 5) but it also breaks up the rice a bit creating a starchy, gloopy mess. Unless you are making risotto or sushi rice, in which case, go crazy, get stirring!
7. Relying on Eskom
Using the stove or the microwave, or a rice cooker may all seem like good options assuming you live in a country with predictable electricity supply. Why not try a haybox, or a Wonder Bag? This does require a bit of planning because it takes about 2 hours to cook a pot of rice, but the initial step can be done in the morning before you leave for work. Prepare your rice as usual, bring it to the boil on the stove then place the pot in the Wonder Bag. Rice is ready to eat in about 2 hours and can stay warm for up to 8 hours... just in time to run through the door at dinnertime and fling something in the direction of the table!
8. Not fluffing
Once the rice is cooked, fluff up the grains with a fork to get them all fluffy and separate, skipping this step can leave your rice a bit clumpy.
Follow Julie Donald on Twitter @AskJulieDonald