As a rule rice is badly cooked in the average American home. For this reason last winter when there was a good deal of talk of rice as a substitute for potatoes, very little enthusiasm was felt on the subject, and indeed when one thinks of the tasteless, gummy mess which is so often put before the family, this lack of enthusiasm is not strange. However, rice properly prepared proves quite a formidable rival of the beloved potato, and there are endless ways of preparing it if one only knows how.
In the first place, very few know how to cook just plain boiled rice. Many know that there is a way of preparing it so that when done it will be a fluffy mass of separate grains, but they have no idea how to go about making it look like this.
The process is very simple. Always use the unpolished rice. Rice with a creamy tinge is better than rice with a pearly white tinge, and the long grain is better than the short.
For every cup of rice have about eight cups of water. Do not add the rice until the water is boiling briskly. Then throw in the rice, and give it an occasional stir until the water begins to boil again. After that it need not be stirred.
Cook until a grain feels soft when rubbed between the thumb and finger, then turn into a colander. Drain off the water and pour over the rice several cups of cold water. Drain that off, too, and place the rice where it can have moist heat for a while before serving. A good plan is just to leave it in the colander and place it over a pan of boiling water; or a steamer may be used for keeping it warm, or a double-boiler. By this method every grain is separate. Rice served with curry is always prepared in this way. It may be served in place of potatoes with meat, and may also be used as a basis for many inexpensive and attractive dishes, just as macaroni and spaghetti are.
There is one objection, however, to rice prepared in this way. A good deal of the nutritive value is lost down the sink-drain. In India this is not the case, for every ounce of rice water is there carefully saved. It is used in various ways. Usually it is fed to the babies and weaker children. Often it is given to ducks and fowl to fatten them, and sometimes it is put into the curry pot.
There is another method of preparing rice which is almost as satisfactory, and by which all the nutrition is retained. That is by cooking it in a regular rice boiler. Put just enough water over the rice to well cover it. After the water in the lower vessel has boiled a while, if the rice seems a little dry, add more water. Cook until the rice is soft, then turn the fire very low, so that the water in the lower vessel does not boil but retains its heat. Let stand for a while before serving, and the rice will be almost as fluffy and white as though blanched by the cold water process.
This is the first solid food that babies of English or American parents in India are allowed.
Take about a quarter of a pound of lean mutton and cook until it is perfectly soft. Shred it finely and return to the broth. Cook a tablespoonful of rice in this broth and shredded mutton. Cook slowly and let every grain swell to its utmost. "Babies cry for it, and the doctors pronounce it harmless." It is also very good for the convalescent.
Pullao is the most festive dish in India. It stands for all that roast turkey does in this country. At weddings, feasts, and holidays it is the chief dish. Among the Hindustani Christians it is the Christmas dinner. Sometimes it is served with rivers of hot curry flowing over it, but often it is eaten without the curry. In India it is usually made with chicken, but any kind of meat does nicely.
For chicken pullao, take a good fat hen, not too old, cut up and stew until almost tender. Put a little bag of "mixed spices," such as are used in making pickles, on to cook with the fowl. While the fowl is cooking take about a pound of rice and fry it with a few sliced onions and a little butter or crisco. When the chicken is nearly done, add the fried rice and onions to the chicken and chicken broth. Put all in a rice boiler if you have it and cook slowly until the rice is done. Retain the spices. If rice boiler is used there should be at least two inches of broth above the mixture. If you have no rice boiler, but must boil it on the stove, more broth will be required. In the latter case do not cook until it becomes soggy. Cook until the broth is absorbed, then steam.
While the rice is cooking fry a few more onions with a handful of almonds and raisins. When the pullao is ready to be served, pile on a platter, then strew thickly over the pullao the fried onions, almonds, and raisins. Last of all, sprinkle generously with cocoanut.
Very delicious pullao may be made from the cheapest cuts of beef and mutton. Get about two pounds of beef or mutton, cut in bits. Cook until it is very tender. Boil with this a little bag of mixed spices and two onions. Unless the meat has a good deal of fat, use crisco, or oil. Two cups of rice will be the right amount to use with two pounds of meat. Use the same method that is used in making chicken pullao. Fresh cocoanut is always delicious strewn over pullao, and if curry is used with it, have cocoanut in the curry.
Fry 3 onions, 6 tomatoes, 2 peppers or pimentos together. They must all be cut into small bits. In another pan fry a cup of rice in a very little oil or crisco. After the rice has browned a little, add the two together, turn into a rice boiler or steamer and cook until rice is tender. A half cupful of grated or diced cheese is an improvement to this dish. In case tomatoes are not in season, a can of tomatoes, or, better, a large-sized can of tomato soup will do nicely. In that case fry the onions and peppers and rice together. Then add the cheese and tomatoes.
Take two cups of cold boiled rice, add to it two cups of freshly shelled peas. Pour over the mixture a half cupful of milk or cream; add a tablespoonful of butter or crisco, and cook in a rice boiler or steamer until the peas are nicely done. A few bay leaves and black pepper grains are an improvement to this dish.
Take a cup of rice, mix it into half a grated cocoanut. A ten-cent tin of Baker's cocoanut does very nicely if one doesn't care to prepare the fresh cocoanut. Boil the rice and cocoanut together, being sure to add to the water the cocoanut milk. There should be about three inches of liquid above the rice. Color the liquid yellow with a little turmeric; add salt, six cloves, two cardamon seeds, and twelve pepper berries. Cook in a rice boiler or steamer until done.
A very nice way of making hash is to use rice instead of potatoes. Take cold meat and gravy and stew together with onion. When the onion is nearly done, add to the broth the rice. A quarter as much uncooked rice as there is meat is a good proportion. Cook all together until rice is thoroughly done. Be sure and have plenty of liquid to start with. This is much better than meat and potato hash.
Left-over pullao or kidgeri or meat and rice hash make fine cutlets. Mold, roll in crumbs, and fry in the usual way.
(A fine dish for a missionary tea.)
Fry a cup of uncooked rice and a cup of brown sugar in a tablespoonful of butter or crisco. Cook until the sugar melts and begins to bubble; then quickly add two cups of boiling water. Simmer over a slow fire, or, better still, in a rice boiler until rice is thoroughly cooked. It can hardly be cooked too much. Remove from the fire, pour over all a half ounce of rose water and stir well. Press in plates and sprinkle well with minced almonds, or any kind of nuts will do. Also add a few cardamon seeds. When cold, cut into squares and serve like fudge. This is a very satisfactory little sweetmeat when one wants a foreign dish. It is easily prepared and very inexpensive.