Rice is a staple in many countries and provides valuable carbohydrate and vitamins to the diet, especially brown rice. It is so versatile; it can be cooked and stir-fried, cooked and used as a base for salads, cooked in stock or cooked in milk, with sugar for sweet dishes.
Common types of rice to cook with include
White long grain: The variety of rice grown in Australia is japonica, which provides a sticky, moist texture once cooked. Long grain rice is mainly served as a side dish, cooked in stock for pilafs, stir-fried or cooled and used in salads.
Medium Grain: A slightly plumper grain which is a little creamier than long grain rice when cooked. It is great for paella.
Short Grain: Often used in desserts such as rice pudding for its plump, creamy grains when cooked.
Brow: Is higher in fibre and minerals as the outer layer has not been removed. It is available in long grain and medium grain. Serve as a side dish or cool and use in salads.
Jasmine: Naturally fragrant long grain white rice, originating in Thailand. It is often cooked and stir-fried for fried rice or served as an accompaniment to curries or stir-fries.
Sushi: A short grain rice which, when cooked, is very sticky and moist.
Basmati: Lower in GI than white long grain rice, basmati rice is often cooked in stock for pilafs or served as a side dish to Indian inspired meals. The grains are long and remain quite separate once cooked. It does not absorb as much water as some of the other varieties.
Arborio: A short plump, starchy grain, giving a creamy texture once cooked. It is perfect for risotto or sweet dishes.
Rice is gluten free and is also available ground into flour for thickening and baking.
Quicker to cook than rice or pasta, try couscous. Couscous is made from rolling semolina from the wheat grain with water into tiny balls, coating them in flour to prevent sticking and traditionally, drying them in the sun. It is a form of pasta and enjoyed in Morocco- as a side dish to tagines or sweetened with sugar and milk and served with dried fruit and nuts, or here, it is often used as a base for salads. It is not gluten free, but a great source of carbohydrate and alternative to pasta or rice or added to thicken soups.
Traditionally, it is moistened with water and steamed, intermittently rolled between the palms of the hands to loosen any lumps. In Australia, we are used to preparing the instant variety. Simply pour over an equal quantity of boiling stock or water and some butter or oil to keep the grains separate and cover for 5 or so minutes until hydrated and plump. Fluff with a fork and serve warm as an accompaniment or cool and add roasted vegetables, herbs and nuts for a salad. You can dress it with quite a robust lemon dressing as it absorbs lots of flavour and loves spices. Store couscous in an airtight container in the pantry.
Making Vegetable Chips:
Making chips out of vegetables may be a way of helping to entice kids to eat more.
Choose root vegetables, as they have a dryish firm texture. The healthiest option is to roast vegetables as the amount of oil used is a lot less than frying. Peel potatoes or sweet potatoes and cut into thin sticks or “chips”. Toss with enough oil to just coat and a little salt and pepper. Place an oven tray in your oven and preheat to 210◦C or 190◦C fan forced. Carefully tip vegetables on to the tray in an even layer. Roast for about 20 minutes, shaking tray occasionally to ensure even cooking. Remove when they are golden.
To fry vegetable chips: Use sweet potato, potato, parsnip, carrot or beetroot. Peeling is optional, slice the vegetable very thinly, ideally with a mandolin to ensure wafer thin slices. Dry slices with paper towel. Heat about 2 cups of oil in a wok or deep saucepan until a small cube of bread sizzles around the edges and becomes golden quickly, in about 15 seconds. Deep fry slices in batches until golden and crispy. Drain well on paper towels and then season lightly with sea salt.
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