It’s the grain that conquered the world – the most important staple diet in the world, and an endlessly adaptable, perennially popular ingredient. Lets celebrate five famous strains of Oryza sativa – rice.
India has at least 80,000 strains of rice, but basmati – a pure white, long-grained fragrant rice is probably the most famous. It’s the perfect rice for pulao dishes, which involve rice cooked in stock or broth, but can become gorgeous, multicoloured meals-on-their-own with added vegetables, meat, pulses or nuts. :ice flour is widely used in India, and delcious idli are one of the tastiest dishes.
Bomba is a short-grained Spanish rice grown in eastern Spain, and strains such the Murcian Calasparra have achieved their own fame. Its a rice that holds its shape and is most known for being used in arroz dishes such as paella. Spain also has a special fondness for sweet, cinnamon laced arroz con leche – rice pudding.
Arborio is similar in appearance to Spanish bomba, but when cooked it’s much more creamy, making it perfect for gloopy, comforting Italian risottos. Along with another short-grained strain, Carnaroli, it’s Italy’s best known rice.
The most famous glutinous rices are from the Far East, and sushi rice is now hugely popular. Its a shortmedium grained Japanese rice that, importantly, clumps together when cooked. That makes it perfect for moulding into little pillows that can be adorned with fish, vinegar, vegetables, seaweed, pickles and spices.
If you like basmati, then you should try Thai jasmine rice, which has a similar, but even more pronounced aroma. Its firm – a little more al dente than basmati rices – and it loses its flavour with age, making younger rices more valuable. Its the perfect companion for one of those sloppy, fragrant, sensual Thai curry dishes.
Basmati Spanish rice recipe
- 1 cup rice (medium grain – look for a brand such as SOS)
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 cups water or stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tspn Lemon juice
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and briefly fry the rice and chopped garlic for a minute.
When all grains are covered in oil, add water and bay leaf and bring to the boil.
Reduce heat, cover the pan and cook for a further 20 minutes. Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve.