09 February 2017

Someone asked me how to get separate rice like you get in the Indian restaurants. I responded as I did below:

First of all, realise that restaurants frequently undercook 1/4 of their rice, and toss it through to give it the illusion of being even more separate. Also, they use enough fat to drown a whale. If we all did that, it would come out like the restaurant too, but we'd also turn so fat that we'd never walk again.

Here's your best bet.

You need a pot with tight fitting lid. You need rice that's a good brand of basmati. Not all basmati is created equal. If you want the best of the very best, get yourself Tilda basmati rice. It will always come out longer, fluffier, and better tasting than any other brand. While you practise, you can use whatever.

In a saucepan, add just enough oil to coat the bottom. You don't need huge heaping amounts, but just enough to lubricate the rice. Heat it up over medium heat, with the lid on, checking frequently for the state of the oil. The oil should be hot enough that a bit of smoke escapes the surface. Add in 1 cup of rice. If you really feel like washing rice is essential, feel free to do so before you heat the pot, but I've skipped that step, and my rice comes out lovely. Add a generous sprinkle of salt. Why? Because like any starch, rice absorbs salt from the cooking water, and tastes really good when it does so. If you're watching your salt intake, just do a couple of hefty pinches. Rice needs some salt to be its best.

DO NOT USE A SPOON ON THE RICE. In fact, don't use any stirring utensil if you can help it. Instead, toss the rice in the oil by making the tossing motion with your saucepan. Why? Because if you mess with the rice with a stirring implement, you risk breaking up the delicate grains.

Continue cooking and tossing until the rice is opaque. It will no longer be translucent, but become a brighter white than opaque. Once the rice smells slightly nutty, and has a uniformly opaque look, add 1 cup + 1/4 cup of boiling water, and crank the heat to as high as it'll go. Why boiling?

You want the water to come up to the boil as rapidly as you can. It seems to help keep the oil onto the surface of the rice, rather than washing off into the liquid, and making the rice stick to the bottom of the pan, or each other. As soon as the rice hits a full rushing boil, lift the pot off of the stove, and swirl it around for 3 seconds. Loosely drape a square of parchment paper, aluminium foil, or a damp towel over the pot's opening, and slam on the lid. This will ensure that the seal is tight.

Drop down the heat to as low as the stove will go, and place the pot back onto the heat. Set a timer for 12 minutes if it's an electric stove, or 15 minutes if it's a gas stove. Why? Because an electric stove takes a longer time to cool down than a gas stove. You will have the pot sat on the residual heat longer on an electric stove. The gas stove will only have residual heat on the metal parts, meaning that the rice will need direct flame a bit longer.

At the end of the cooking time, turn off the heat, and DON'T TOUCH THE LID OR THE POT. The rice is still cooking, and needs time to finish steaming. There will be a bit of water that needs to absorb into the rice. Set a timer for 12 minutes for electric, and 10 minutes for gas. Leave the pot alone, and walk away.

At the end of the waiting time, go ahead and remove the lid, and any tightening measures you've done. Dump it out aonto a large platter (I use my cookie sheet, because it's huge), and gently press it out into as flat a layer as possible with a silicon spatula. Let it cool for about 30 seconds, and gently toss with the silicon spatula. It will fluff up beautifully and the whole thing will smell awesome.

Or, use a rice cooker.