How to cook perfect rice

How to cook perfect rice

Being born to a Sri Lankan mother, curry, and by extension, rice, was always big news in our house. Whether we were tucking into ‘yellow rice’ (of the basmati variety, coloured with saffron and sexed up with cardamoms and cloves), or dribbling over ‘kiri bath’ (dreamy, sweet coconut milk rice), the grain was always a fixture on our menus.  

However, as a tweenager venturing to friends’ houses for tea, I discovered one of life’s most uncomfortable truths: white people can’t cook rice. It’s a sorry fact, but throughout my life I have witnessed all manner of crimes against rice being committed on British soil.

The worst ways to cook rice

Where do so many go wrong? Well, I’ve noticed that most people come undone in their need to treat rice like pasta; they boil it to oblivion, drain it and then serve it in a soggy, starchy, (frequently al dente) pile. For this reason, the sight of a colander when someone is making rice is enough to make me break into a cold sweat! 

When I think of my mother’s rice by contrast, I think of soft, fluffy grains that create a delicate pillow upon which her accompaniments rest – and shine. And there’s never any draining involved, she just puts the rice on the heat and 15 minutes later it’s perfect. 

In my eyes, unless you’re making risotto (such as this delicious pumpkin risotto with roasted walnut, red chicory and gorgonzola by Michelin starred chef Paul Merrett) or a wholesome wild rice salad, this is a grain that need never be al dente. And what’s more, I recommend ditching long grain rice wherever possible for the infinitely more refined basmati, especially if you are going to be serving it alongside a fabulous curry such as Josceline Dimbleby’s rich red quail curry. Not only does basmati cook quicker, avoiding that familiar crunchy rice problem, but it also has a lovely, slightly nutty flavour and pleasantly springy texture. 

My mother’s foolproof method

It amazes me that in a country that has such a well documented love affair with curry, so many still make rice that is joyless, and using a method that seems to have come from Mrs. Beeton. 

So in an effort to save this country from bad rice (and frankly lots of unnecessary faffing), I give you my mum’s foolproof method for perfect rice every time. 

It works because of three key actions: rinsing the rice well before cooking it removes some of the starch. Next, the delightful ‘magic finger’ rule ensures you always have the correct ratio of water to rice, while the final act of boiling off the water means you are left with dry, fluffy, ready-to-eat grains. Just call it the holy trinity! 

Here’s how:

1: Wash the rice

Place the basmati rice in a heavy based saucepan and wash well with your fingertips under cold running water to remove excess starch. Ideally rinse the rice 2-3 times. 

2: Use the right amount of water

Now place the tip of your middle finger on the top of the rice. Fill the pan with enough water to reach just above the second joint of your finger (the joint closest your palm). Add salt to taste.

3: Bring to boil, then simmer

Place the saucepan over a high heat; bring to the boil and then simmer on low, covered, for about 15 minutes or until all the water has evaporated and you have fluffy, dry grains. Serve straight away.

Finally, if you’re looking for something delicious to serve alongside your perfect rice, you could do a lot worse than this recipe for grey mullet with mussels by celebrated seafood chef Mitch Tonks. Alternatively, if you are feeling nostalgic about Christmas, check out Phil Vickery's recipe for one pot turkey pilau with coriander. I think the word you’re looking for is ‘yum’? 

Also worth your attention: 

Win a trip of a lifetime to India

Recipe: One pot turkey pilau with coriander

Recipe: Grey mullet with mussels

  • Wednesday #sgroundup: Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia 1 hour 39 minutes ago
    Wednesday #sgroundup: Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Here are today’s top trending stories in case you missed them.

  • The Lotus breadvan: Flickr photo of the day 15 hours ago
    The Lotus breadvan: Flickr photo of the day

    The Lotus Europa was one of the stranger sports cars of the '70s, but still managed to corner like a sheepdog thanks to its low weight and fiberglass body. This example caught by Dave Lindsay is fairly typical of the nicer early '70s Type 62 Europas Lotus exported to the United States; by today's standards they're odd, underpowered and unreliable — which means they have a fervent fan base.

  • Inside MotoGP, elbow on asphalt at 210 mph 16 hours ago
    Inside MotoGP, elbow on asphalt at 210 mph

    In MotoGP, a most strange sport, compact, highly fit men, most of them Spanish, Italian, Japanese, or Australian, maneuver 350-lb., multimillion-dollar motorcycles around Formula One tracks at 220 mph while wearing computerized suits that inflate when they fall off at speed. It feels as though you’re watching Tron live, and the crashes are just as spectacular. Driving these things requires a lot of nerve, as well as generous levels of Euro-style machismo. The riders of MotoGP can’t walk down the street in Barcelona or Milan without being followed by screaming fans. They’re like some sort of unholy marriage between Daft Punk and Apollo astronauts. In the United States, they’re just guys walking down the street.

  • Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia
    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Armed pirates boarded a Singapore-managed oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. The attack occurred early Tuesday off Malaysia's west coast, said Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. The diesel oil tanker was believed to be en route to Myanmar. "IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca Straits.

  • Fresh wave of Hello Kitty mania to descend on McDonald’s outlets in Singapore
    Fresh wave of Hello Kitty mania to descend on McDonald’s outlets in Singapore

    It may not be safe to enter a McDonald’s restaurant in Singapore on Mondays starting 28 April. To celebrate the iconic Japanese character Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary, the fast food chain announced last Friday that it would be releasing a new collection of Hello Kitty toys in McDonald’s restaurants island wide next Monday.

  • First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy
    First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy

    He called the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn forwarded him to the coastguard two minutes later. That was followed by about 20 other calls from children on board the ship to the emergency number, a fire service officer told Reuters.