Although a simple ingredient to cook, rice can seem a little bland and boring. Find some fresh inspiration from Nisha Katona’s ‘Pimp My Rice’ and ‘Posh Rice’ by Emily Kydd.
With a full-time career as a practising barrister and with a host of cookbooks, British-born Indian Nisha Katona is a force to be reckoned with. Nisha’s cookbook, Pimp My Rice, is a mixture of home-made recipes and exotic recipes from around the world. From pimped rice piri piri to beefed-up bibimbap and even black rice & coconut sorbet, the cookbook showcases an amazing array of rice types and explains how to cook them perfectly every time. Later this year, Katona is releasing her second cookbook, The Spice Tree, full to the brim of warming Indian home cooking (15 June), so keep your eyes peeled…
Katona says in her book:
‘Rice. The best staple in the world. Not just that, but the most nutritive and widespread staple in the world! That’s how the renowned Escoffier described this wonderful grain. He didn’t scoff so why do we? I wrote this book because I felt rice needed to be celebrated.’
The origins of this dish are found in India in the days of the British Empire. Kitchuri, a simple rice and lentil stew, was found wanting by the British during the breakfasts of the Raj. Wanting, as it was a vegetarian lentil stew with neither hide nor hair of meat or fish. This would never do for a Brit’s brunch. Indian chefs always bought fish first thing in the morning, and in the absence of refrigerators, that fish needed to be eaten before the height of the noon heat. This dish killed two birds with one stone. It stopped a redundant catch rotting in the heat. It also kept the memsahibs one piscatorial step removed from the brazen, heretical, lentil-worshipping vegetarianism that plagued the native kitchens.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
» 2 tbsp ghee or clarified butter
» ¼ tsp cumin seeds
» ½ dried red chilli/hot pepper, leave in one piece
» 1 small bay leaf
» 5mm/¼in piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
» a pinch of chilli powder
» ½ tsp ground coriander
» 1 small onion, ½ chopped, ½ finely sliced
» 225g/8oz/heaped 1¼ cups white basmati rice, rinsed and drained
» 225g/8oz/1¼ cups brown lentils
» ½ tbsp turmeric
» ½ tsp salt
» ½ tbsp sunflower oil
» ½ tbsp flaked/slivered almonds
» 250g/9oz cooked smoked undyed haddock
» 2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and quartered
» a few sprigs of coriander/cilantro
1. Melt the ghee in a large saucepan and add the cumin seeds. They need to pop and fizz. Add the dried red chilli and cook for a few seconds. Now add the bay leaf, ginger, chilli powder, ground coriander and chopped onion. Fry over a medium-low heat until the onion turns golden brown.
2. Add the rice, lentils, turmeric and salt and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes.
3. Just cover with water, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 20–30 minutes until all the moisture has been absorbed and all the ingredients are tender, adding a little more boiling water, if necessary.
4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a separate pan and fry the onion slivers until brown and crisp, then remove and drain well on paper towels. Brown the almonds quickly in the same pan.
5. Turn the kedgeree onto a large serving plate. Tear the cooked smoked haddock carefully into large chunky flakes and mix gently into the dish.
6. Scatter the fried onions and almonds on top. Wedge the quartered boiled eggs into the kedgeree and finally top with the coriander/cilantro sprigs.
Caramel Berry Blend Rice Pudding
Prep: 15 minutes, plus soaking
Cook: 20 minutes
This is a berry-sweetened porridge made from a coconut-based congee. Congee is the beef tea of the East, the porridge version of motherly love. For many in the East, this blended congee has been the stuff of rib-sticking recuperation. The berries are a bright, tart European twist. In China, I enjoyed this with jackfruit – a mango/ toffee flavoured fruit with a pineapple consistency. I remember thinking that it stood sophisticatedly proud of the congee, pretending not to know the humble porridge around it. Berries, I thought, bullied into the blend by a little blitzing, would be a much better match.
» 150g/5½oz/heaped 1 cup raspberries, plus 6 whole raspberries, to garnish
» 150g/5½oz/1½ Cups strawberries, plus 3 halved strawberries, to garnish
» 1½ tbsp demerara or muscovado/soft brown sugar
» 1 tsp lemon juice
» 90g/3¼oz/½ cup Thai fragrant rice or short-grain rice soaked for 2–4 hours, rinsed and drained
» 650ml/22fl oz/2¾ cups coconut milk
» 2 tbsp caster/granulated sugar
» a pinch of salt
1. Chop the raspberries and strawberries roughly into large chunks, reserving all the juices. Reserve a few pieces to decorate, then leave them all to one side.
2. For the congee, heat the rice, coconut milk, caster/granulated sugar and salt in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium-high heat. Once the rice begins to boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until you have a porridge consistency.
3. Meanwhile, put the raspberries, strawberries, dememera sugar and lemon juice in a shallow frying pan over a medium heat and stir for about 8 minutes until the fruit softens but still has some bite, and the juice thickens slightly. Don’t let it go to a toffee-like consistency.
4. Now you can either stir the berry mix into the congee until the red juices just bleed a little into the congee, or blend them together using a stick/immersion blender.
5. Serve warm or cold in bowls, decorated with the reserved fruit.
Cure-me-Quick Soup with Chicken, Noodles, Ginger & Lime
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 15 minutes
We all know chicken soup is dispensed in God’s own pharmacy, but so often it tastes of dishwater. Not this one – it is full of big flavours that have big health benefits. The lime packs a good vitamin-C punch, the bones and skin perform their antibiotic magic, plus this big pan of golden goodness serves four.
» 1 tbsp olive oil
» 2 chicken breasts, skin on
» 2 chicken thighs, skin on
» 1 small onion, diced
» 2 garlic cloves, crushed
» 240ml/8fl oz/1 cup white wine
» grated zest and juice of 2 limes
» 5cm/2in piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and halved
» 4 whole black peppercorns
» 2 chicken stock cubes, crumbled
» 2 bay leaves
» 2 tsp caster/granulated sugar
» 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
» 2 celery stalks, diced
» 1 tbsp finely chopped thyme leaves
» 115g/4oz fine rice noodles
» salt and freshly ground black pepper
» a few coriander/cilantro sprigs
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the chicken, onion, and crushed garlic cloves and cook for about 5 minutes until the chicken breast is browned and the onions start to turn translucent.
2. Now pour the wine, lime juice and 1 litre/35fl oz/4⅓ cups water over the chicken mixture. Slice one half of the ginger and add it to the pan with the
3. peppercorns, chicken stock cubes, bay leaves and sugar. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes.
4. Remove the chicken pieces from the soup to a cutting board. Shred the breast and thighs into small pieces, discarding the bones and skin.
5. Add the carrots, celery, half the lime zest and the thyme to the soup. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 20 minutes.
6. Bring the soup to the boil. Return the chicken to the soup along with the noodles. Mince the remaining ginger and add it to the pan. Remove the
7. pan from heat, cover and leave to one side until the noodles have softened. This should take about 10 minutes.
8. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then top with the coriander/cilantro and the remaining lime zest to serve.
Pimped Rice Piri Piri
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 15 minutes
This is a great way to send four chicken breasts a long way – all the way to the red pepper heat of Portugal.
» 280g/10oz/heaped 1½ cups long-grain white rice, rinsed and drained
» 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
» 3 tbsp olive oil
» 1 large onion, sliced
» 3 garlic cloves, chopped
» 2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
» 2 yellow peppers, deseeded and sliced
» 4–8 red chillies, sliced (use less or more according to taste)
» 1 tsp dried thyme
» ½ tsp dried oregano
» 1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
» 2 tomatoes, chopped
» 1 tbsp tomato purée/paste
» 1 litre/35fl oz/4⅓ cups chicken stock
» 3½ tbsp red wine vinegar a few coriander/cilantro leaves
» salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
2. Put the rice in an even layer in the bottom of a large ovenproof dish.
3. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan over a high heat and brown the chicken quickly on all sides, then put it on top of the rice in the ovenproof dish.
4. Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the onions and garlic. Once softened, add the peppers and the as many of the chillies as you can bear.
5. Fry for 5 minutes over a medium-low heat until the peppers are soft.
6. Add the thyme, oregano, smoked paprika, chopped tomatoes and tomato purée/paste. Stir briefly and season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Now add the stock and red wine vinegar, bring to the boil, then simmer for 3 minutes. Pour this mixture over the chicken and rice. Cover tightly and transfer to the oven for 45 minutes until the rice and chicken are tender. Sprinkle with coriander/cilantro leaves and serve warm.
The Hot Date Congee
Brown, wholesome and fruity. All the kick you get from that late-night Swiss muesli fix but at the right time of the day. You can add a swirl of coconut milk at the end instead of the dollop of something fresher, like yogurt. You could even use half the amount of milk during the cooking process and top up with 125ml/4fl oz/½ cup of coconut milk. This makes the dish more luxurious, richer and adds a sunshine twist to your wholesome morning.
Prep: 5 minutes, plus soaking
Cook: 20 minutes
» 130g/4½oz/1 cup whole hazelnuts
» 200g/7oz/heaped 1 cup short-grain brown rice, soaked for 2 hours, rinsed and drained
» 3 tbsp soft brown sugar
» a pinch of salt
» 240ml/8fl oz/1 cup whole milk
» ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling
» 6 dried dates, pitted and chopped
» 4 tbsp Greek yogurt or crème fraîche
1. Toss the hazelnuts in a small frying pan over a medium-high heat until they brown evenly all over. Remove from the pan and leave to one side.
2. Combine the rice, sugar, salt, milk and cinnamon in a saucepan. Bring to the boil over a medium-high heat, stir well, then lower the heat to medium-low. Add the chopped dates and simmer, covered, for 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You are looking for a thick porridge consistency. Cook, uncovered, for 2 more minutes.
3. Spoon into serving bowls and sprinkle with a few toasted hazelnuts. Add a dollop of good Greek yogurt with a little pinch of cinnamon sprinkled over the top.
Recipes extracted from Pimp My Rice by Nisha Katona © Nisha Katona 2015 published by Nourish Books, London, Hardback,£20.00.
Emily Kydd, the author of Posh Rice, says:
‘There are so many different types of rice and it’s so versatile which makes it such an exciting, and I think sometimes overlooked, ingredient. From nutty and chewy, to soft and creamy the difference in texture that can be achieved from various varieties make it a great store cupboard staple.’
‘For me baked rice is a favourite, so I love making the Moroccan baked chicken, lamb biryani, courgette and gruyere gratin and the Maltese baked rice from the book – plus most of the cooking happens in the oven so I’m not slaving over the stove. Rice is also great for bulking out a salad for a crowd and it takes on dressings really well. For a fairly speedy weeknight dinner my go to dish is the spring green pilaf with chilli butter.’
Prep: 10 mins
Cooking: about 1 hour
250g/9oz sirloin steak, fat removed and thinly sliced
4 radishes, sliced
200g/1 cup, plus 2 tbsp sushi rice
75g/21⁄2oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp sesame seeds
50g/2oz cucumber, quartered and sliced
1 small carrot, peeled and shredded
2 eggs salt and freshly ground black pepper
Gochujang paste or Sriracha chilli sauce, to serve
For the marinade
11⁄2 tbsp rice wine vinegar, plus extra for pickling
1 tbsp clear honey, plus extra for pickling
1 tsp sesame oil, plus extra for frying and seasoning
11⁄2 tbsp soy sauce, plus extra for seasoning
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1. In a bowl, mix together the marinade ingredients. Add the beef to the marinade, stir well and chill for 30 minutes. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 1⁄2 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp cold water and a little salt. Add the radishes and set aside to pickle. Cook the rice according to the packet instructions, then leave to steam in a pan with the lid on.
2. Heat 1 tsp sesame oil in a frying pan and fry the mushrooms for 5 minutes until golden brown. Add the garlic and seasoning and fry for another 30 seconds. Remove from the pan and set aside. Heat another 1 tsp sesame oil in the pan and fry the sesame seeds until golden. Stir through the spinach until wilted, then tip into a bowl and toss with a little soy sauce and some sesame oil.
3. Bring a small pan of water to the boil and blanch the cucumber for 1–2 minutes until softened. Remove using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl and toss with some soy sauce and sesame oil. Repeat with the carrot and beansprouts.
4. Return the frying pan to a very high heat, drizzle in some oil, then add the beef and stir-fry for 3 – 4 minutes until caramelised – do this in batches so that the meat doesn’t boil. Return all the beef to the pan and cook until browned and glossy. Set aside and clean out the pan. Heat a drizzle of oil in the pan and fry the eggs.
5. Divide the rice between wide, shallow bowls. Top with the fried eggs, then arrange the vegetables and beef over the top in separate piles so they are clearly de ned. Dollop a little Gochujang on top and serve extra on the side.
‘Posh Rice’ by Emily Kydd (Quadrille, £12.99) Photography © Alex Luck.