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Plain rice, one of the most basic of cooking skills…sounds easy-peasy ? Then why so many people are harrowed by the very idea of cooking a perfect pot of white rice which is tender and fluffy ?!
Following some basic steps can actually help conquer the rice fright.
I’ve always cooked my plain rice the same way as we cook pasta or noodles, by boiling them in salted water.
I find rice cooked by this method lighter and it’s easier to keep an eye on them as you can drain the excess water as soon as the rice reach the al dente stage.
Also you can add different spices while boiling the rice to make them aromatic and flavourful ; such as cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf or lemon grass.
I make the basic rice for cooking traditional rice recipes like Biryani and Zarda by boiling them with aromatic spices.
Many people swear by soaking basmati rice before cooking them…to me it’s just a popular myth ! I used to soak rice before cooking them during the early days of my cooking adventures…a few times, when in a hurry, I cooked them without soaking…to my surprise the result was actually better ! I don’t soak the rice anymore ever and they come out just fine and save some time.
Another myth that needs to be debunked is ‘2 parts water for 1 part rice’. The quantity of water required depends on the type of rice, size and depth of the cooking pan and cooking temperature…specially for rice cooked by absorption method.

The beauty of basmati rice is their glorious long grains…cooked basmati should showcase these grains expanded, tender yet separate.

For Plain Basmati Rice :

3+1/2 cups long grained basmati rice
Enough water to keep the rice immersed throughout boiling, at least 10-12 cups
3+1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup olive oil or Ghee ( clarified butter)

This Is What You Do :

Fill a wok or wide, heavy bottomed pan 3/4 with water. Bring the water to a rolling boil, add salt.
Rinse the rice with tap water 3-4 times to get rid of impurities and loose starch.
Drop the rice grains into the boiling water as you would cook pasta or noodles.
Reduce heat to a simmer. Let the rice cook for 18 minutes. Check a grain by pressing it between your thumb and index finger…if its done, it should break into two.
Have a colander ready, drain the rice and rinse with cold water. This will stop the cooking process and remove extra starch from the grains.
Let them sit in the colander for 5 minutes or till all the water is drained.
Pour ghee or oil in the same pan, add rice.
Reduce heat to lowest possible. Place a skillet or cast iron pan under the rice pan to keep the rice from sticking at the bottom. Wrap the lid of the pan in a clean kitchen towel, cover the pan…this soaks up extra moisture and makes the rice fluff better. This whole process is called Dum. It’s a centuries old trick in South Asia to cook fluffy rice without getting them stick to the bottom. You can leave rice on Dum for 10-30 minutes.

Makes 6-7 servings

Trouble shooting :

If you have been afraid to cook rice all your life, don’t expect your very first batch to be perfect…don’t be hard on yourself ! At times even people who cook rice very frequently make a mess of it !
But there are ways to fix undercooked or over cooked rice :
This Dum method that I have just mentioned above is something I learnt from my grandmother and I have manoeuvred it a few times to save my rice from becoming inedible.

* For UNDERCOOKED RICE, throughly soak a kitchen towel in warm water , squeeze out excess water, wrap the lid in it and cover the pan. Place a skillet under the pan, reduce heat to lowest, let the rice cook slowly in the steam produced by the wet cloth. Check after 10 minutes, if not done yet repeat the process once again. It’s a tried and tested old trick that actually works !

as soon as you drain them, run them under cold water to stop the cooking process, drain completely. Using thick, dry cotton kitchen towel put them to Dum…the towel will soak up extra moisture and save the rice from getting clumpy.

Immediately put the pan in a container of cold water to stop the burnt flavour from permeating through the rest of rice. Scoop out the good rice and move them to a clean pan.

* always use a deep wide pan to allow the rice to expand to their full capacity.

*always use a heavy bottomed pan to save rice from burning or sticking at the bottom. If you don’t have that kind of pan, place a skillet under the rice pan during last few minutes of cooking.

* don’t stir while cooking plain rice, stirring breaks the kernels and releases more starch from rice, making them clumpy.

* never cook rice on high heat…after the initial boil reduce heat to medium low. If the temperature is too high, water will evaporate too soon to cook rice through.

* I add 1 teaspoon salt for every cup of rice while boiling because most of the salt gets drained with water, some of it the rice absorb. Nobody likes bland rice !

* to reheat rice, sprinkle a little water, heat on very low temperature in a covered pan. The steam from the water revives the rice and heats them thoroughly.

* try cooking a small quantity at first till you are confident about measurements, temperature and technique . Stick to the technique that works for you !

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