Ingredient of the Week: Basmati Rice

Ingredient of the Week: Basmati Rice

Rice is a staple grain found all across the world. There are several different types including basmati, jasmine, long grain, short grain, sushi, risotto and wild. This week I will focus on basmati, as this is the most common grain of rice I use in my cooking. Basmati rice grains are long and pointed at each end. It is native to India and features most commonly in their cuisine. It has a distinctive nutty flavour, with a floral aroma, that sets it apart from standard long grain rice. Another difference between basmati and long grain rice, is that basmati tends to be more fluffy, with the grains being separated from each other once cooked, whereas standard long grain tends to be more sticky and clump together.

Basmati, like most rice grains is available in either white or brown varieties. Brown is more nutritious as it is less processed. Brown is considered to be a wholegrain, as it still has both the germ and the bran part of the grain intact, whereas in white varieties this has been polished away. This means that nutritionally brown is better for you as it contains more fibre and other vital minerals such as magnesium. The type of energy contained in brown versions is more slow releasing carbohydrates, meaning that the energy provided is delivered over a longer amount of time, sustaining you and keeping you feeling fuller for longer. White varieties are not all bad, some brands, once they have stripped the germ and bran from the grain, enrich it with added minerals to replace what has been lost. If you are using white varieties, it is important to check the label to ensure that you are getting as much micronutrients as possible.

Why is it good for me?

Basmati rice is an excellent source of carbohydrate. The type found in the white version is very readily digested, whereas the type found in brown is more slow releasing due to the higher fibre content. Both varieties are low in fat. Basmati rice, be it white or brown, has a lower GI or glycemic index than other varieties of long grain rice. This means that the energy contained in it is more slow releasing than, say plain white rice, helping to keep you sustained and fuller for longer. Carbohydrates have been demonised by the media recently, claiming that they are bad for us, but our bodies can not produce energy without it. The more active we are, the more energy we need and so the more carbohydrates we must consume. There are definitely better and worse sources of carbohydrates, wholegrains, oats, potatoes, quinoa and rice are examples of good carbohydrates and anything high in sugar or highly processed is less preferrable. However, I am a big believer in creating a healthy balance, so everything in moderation is my approach.

How do I prepare it?

These days, rice needs little or no preparation. Some recipes and brands recommend you rinse it before cooking, but personally I prefer to avoid this, as it potentially risks rinsing away much needed nutrients. All I do is weigh out how much I need and then cook it. Definitely don’t soak basmati rice first, as this stops it from becoming light and fluffy once cooked. It makes it become sticky and clumpy.

How do I cook it?

White basmati rice takes around 10-12 minutes to cook if you are cooking in its simplest and quickest form. All I do is add the rice to a pan and then pour over plenty of boiling water, before leaving it to simmer on the hob over a low heat for 10-12 minutes. There are several other ways of doing it, including in the microwave, steaming or cooking it in less water with the lid on the pan, so that all the water is absorbed. This means you don’t have to then strain off any excess water, but also takes slightly longer and you need to be exact with your measurements. Brown basmati rice takes longer to cook, but the principle is the same.

Plain basmati rice makes a great accompaniment to many dishes including curries, like this chicken korma or this quick fish curry. It can also be cooked as part of the dish itself, like in this jambalaya or biryani. Cooking rice in stock or along with vegetables, herbs and spices, means that it takes on all the different flavours, stopping it from being plain and making it far more interesting. Other recipes that showcase this really well are this chicken, mushroom and kale pilaf, this smoked coley rice salad, or this one pan Thai chicken rice. You don’t have to always cook rice in a pan, it can also be baked in the oven like this Italian chicken and bacon rice bake

Basmati rice can also be cooked in liquids other than water. If I’m making a kedgeree, which I haven’t yet shared the recipe for, I cook it in milk, which gives it a creamier taste. My favourite way to cook rice is in coconut milk, like for this chicken creole recipe, as the coconut flavour gets passed on to the rice and makes it delicious. As I explain in my post about 10 Foods I Couldn’t Live Without, rice is one of my staple foods and I have so many recipes that include it. I also love eating and cooking Thai curries, like this Thai green chicken curry or this yellow salmon curry. Rice, especially basmati, is the perfect accompaniment.  

I know technically I should be eating brown rice over white, as the brown variety contains more nutrients, like magnesium and some B vitamins, such as folate, as well as being higher in fibre, but I just prefer the taste of white rice. It also takes less amount of time to cook. So long as I get my fibre, magnesium and B vitamins from other foods, then this shouldn’t be an issue, but if this is something you struggle to achieve, then swapping white rice for brown would be a great and healthy way of increasing your intake. If you have any questions from reading this post, then please leave a comment in the box below.

Thank you for reading and speak soon.


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