In my world rice can be synonymous with life.
The grains of rice are so intertwined with the thread of life that by pulling on one, you may fray the other. Rice occupies a sacred place in my culture.
No important milestone can be complete without rice. The first solid food given to a child Mukhe bhat, literally meaning mouth rice, is a big affair. The young bride walking in the groom’s house is marked with Bou Bhat or bride rice. As a token of accepting her shared responsibility in the new household she serves rice to the family members.
Everyday life events are talked about with a string of rice attached. For example, ‘ ‘It was Dudh bhat, translates to milk rice would mean, it was simple. Dozing off after lunch would be ‘ Bhat ghum’, or rice sleep also known as the carb induced coma. A very homey invitation would be ‘Bhat kheye jao’, come eat rice. I can go on and on.
Boil in water it satiates, grind it and add to batter to give a crunch, puffs up to Murmura or “puffed rice”. It can be beaten into Poha or “thickened rice“, or made into a fermented batter for lovely crepes. If I was allowed only one ingredient to have in my pantry that could keep me full, yes, that would be rice.
Cooking rice did not start from washing the grains in water as we are used to doing now. I remember my mother using a wicker bowl, Kulo or soop, to separate any husks or stones from the rice grains. Eyes fixed to the kulo, she would easily carry on a conversation, reminding us not to forget to pack the lunch bag for school or give out the grocery list to my dad, Baba as we addressed him. A gentle pat at the back of the Kulo, would make the husks fly out, then a quick run with fingers to pick left over stones if any.
We did not own a rice cooker or fancy measuring cups. Rice was always cooked in a pot, Handi. An empty old Nestle’s sweetened condensed milk tin that had seen better days was saved to serve as a cup measure. Life was very simple.
I am the proud owner of RC3406 Black and Decker 6 cup rice cooker now. The non stick pot has a tempered glass lid. The unit even boasts of automatically switching from cook to warm when done. Habits die hard though. Instead of me embracing the cooker for my rice, a plastic cover has instead embraced the gadget and it sits on the back of the very top shelf in my pantry.
The method of rice cooking which I am sharing with you works for me every time. You are a star if the grains of rice stay separate and not clumped.
Recipe: Serves 4.
Basmati rice 2 cups
Water See below
Sauce pan with a tight fitting lid.
Wash the rice with water. Drain the water out.
In a sauce pan take the above rice. Add water. The amount of water is crucial. This is how I measure it. Dip the fingers of your right hand in this water. ( The figure below with the left hand gives an indication ). The tip of the middle finger gently touching the top surface of the rice, the water should come up to the first mark on the inside of this finger. Repeat this measure in two or three points on the rice surface, to get an average. Add or deduct water accordingly.
Put this pan on high heat uncovered. Wait till it comes to a boil about 4 minutes. Let it boil until it forms white foam on the surface, another 2 minutes. Cover with a tight fitting lid now and put the gas off, in this case it was 6 minutes from start. Let the pan sit on the same spot on the gas burner. Do not, please do not open to take a peek. Let it sit for 15 minutes after switching the gas off.
The rice should now be ready. Fluff it up with a fork and serve hot with your choice of curries.
I have used ‘Swad Dehradun’ Basmati rice.
Additives like salt or oil have sometimes been used , I prefer mine simple.
I cooked on a Frigidair stove top. Sometimes different stoves could cause a minor difference.