Field of rice
Rice is the seed of two main domesticated species of grass, one being Oryza sativa (Asian rice) and the other Oryza glaberrima (African rice). From these two main species, come the two most commonly cultivated sub species that we know as short-grain rice (Oryza japonica) and long-grain rice (Oryza indica).
Rice is the most widely consumed staple food for possibly two-thirds of the world's population. Of the two main sub species, long grain rices, such as basmati contain more amylose starch, which causes the grains to become more separate after cooking whereas short grain rices contain more amylopectin which makes them starchier and stickier.
Rice is a great food as part of a well-balanced diet. It’s a starchy carbohydrate, which means it’s more slowly digested and broken down in the body, releasing energy more slowly over time. It also contains important minerals such as iron and zinc as well as B vitamins and is a source of protein and fibre. Rice sold with its bran layer intact is known as brown or wholegrain and therefore has a higher vitamin, mineral and fibre content than white rice.
Grains of rice
When deciding on which rice to buy, as with many foods, well known brands and higher prices doesn’t always mean higher quality or better flavour. The best brands to look for, are those bought and recommended by people who frequently use rice, from Chinese or Indian food shops or more commonly now, world food sections of supermarkets.
If you have storage at home for larger quantities, it’s much more cost effective to buy large 5kg/10kg bags than 500g or 1kg at a time. It can be even cheaper still if a group of friends, family members or neighbours club together to purchase larger amounts then share it out.
When looking at packaging information, look for the country of origin. Rice from one of the main producing countries (China, India, Indonesia) usually means a better standard and quality, whereas without a country of origin stated, it may be a blend of grains milled to a more basic standard.
Choose the most suitable rice for your recipe and use around 55g of uncooked rice per person. If unsure, follow the instructions on the pack.
For the main rice’s mentioned above apart from Risotto, there are four main methods of cooking:
Note: Basmati rice gives better results after a little pre-soaking and rinsing before cooking and all rice benefits from standing for 5 minutes after cooking and rinsing to allow excess water to be absorbed back into the grain
Suitable for Basmati (white, brown, easy-cook) other long grain, wild rice and wild rice blends
Suitable for Basmati (white, brown, easy cook) Thai, wild rice and wild rice blends
Suitable for Basmati, other long grain and Thai rice’s
Suitable for Basmati, easy-cook Basmati and other long grain rice’s
Uses: Curries, pilaffs, biryani, casseroles, salads, with sauces and rice puddings
Uses: A good accompaniment to many Thai, Indonesian, Chinese and Indian dishes as well as in stir-fry, sushi, rice puddings, rice cakes
Uses: Risottos, paella, fritters, puddings, cakes
Uses: Paella, risotto, can be hard to find in UK so risotto rice is a good substitute
Uses: In salads, mixed with white rice as an accompaniment, stuffing
This article is part of our new recipe type 'Learn to cook'. These recipes will provide you with fundamental cooking skills and break down the nutrition information on various cooking methods. Below is a link to all our recipes and the first rice recipe from our new series 'Boiled Rice'.