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Rice is nice

Wholefood columnist Janet Steer, stumbles upon organic brown sweet rice in a local shop, and falls in love with it all over again.

by: Janet Steer | 29 May 2007

Rice excites me. Am I sad? I'm not talking about the Tastic that I grew up with... that almost resulted in a lifelong aversion. I’m talking about real rice; the rice that most people don’t even know exists.

I couldn’t contain my excitement last week. I stumbled upon organic brown sweet rice in my local health shop. Yes, it is imported. And yes, it does come at a pretty price. But, every sticky mouthful is worth every cent. Sweet rice is not normally eaten daily, but when served up, it is a real treat.

Sweet rice is more glutinous than standard rice. That's glutinous with an ‘i’, meaning sticky. It does not contain any gluten. The glutinous quality results in the grains clinging together when cooked. Whether eaten plain, combined with other grains or plumped into the perfect rice pudding, this is comfort rice at its best.

Winter is here. We need food that is warming, comforting and nourishing. Different varieties of rice can be seasonal. For a while, say goodbye to the rice that is more aromatic, fluffy, fragrant and cooling. Right now, it’s time for short grain brown rice. Warming in nature, it is the smallest and hardiest of the brown rice varieties. Not only nutritious, it is delicious. White rice can never match up to its full, nutty flavour.

Making perfect brown rice is not always easy. When suggesting to someone that they try brown rice, the flaw in our cooking methods often results in the easy response “Oh, I tried it. It was awful.” But, if it is not perfect the first time, try again.

Obtain the highest quality brown rice available, organic if possible. Always wash the rice. Use your heaviest stainless steel pot and ensure that it has a heavy lid. The extra weight on top helps to exert pressure within the pot and brings out the natural sweetness of the grain. A cast-iron pot or a ceramic pot can also be used.

For each cup of brown rice, you need two cups of water. If possible, soak the rice in the water for a few hours and cook in the soaking water. If not soaking, simply add the cooking water to the rice and bring to a boil, uncovered, over a medium heat. When boiling, add a pinch of salt per cup of rice, reduce the heat to the lowest level possible, cover and simmer for 50 minutes. All the water should be absorbed. There should be no need to drain the rice or pour off any excess water. Remove from the heat and allow the rice to sit for a few minutes. Fluff with a wooden spoon and serve.

How strange that most people have acquired a taste for polished white rice, lacking in fibre and minerals. Many people have associated white rice with modernisation and affluence, and brown rice with backwardness and poverty. I eat brown rice almost daily. For me it’s not just an accompaniment to curry and stew, but also porridge for breakfast, studded with sultanas and sprinkled with seeds. It’s a salad for lunch, nourished in olive oil and garnished with olives. And it’s a risotto for dinner, peppered with peas.

Janet Steer is a graduate of the Kushi Institute in Becket, Massachusetts. She is recognized by Michio Kushi, the founder of modern Macrobiotics and the Kushi Institute, as a recognized Macrobiotic Teacher and Counselor.

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