Janet's Notebook
Sugar and Spice and Everything... Rice!

Basmati Stars in Veggie Lamb Stew

It was said in a whisper, a tone somewhere between a secret and a confession.

"I can't even make rice..."

Staring, us ladies sat for a moment unsure of what to say. And then it began, a rush of exhales and a chorus of "Me either!" "Same here!" and "I thought it was just me!"

So many of us have struggled through the years to find that perfect balance of tenderness and starch. Perfecting the art of cooking rice may be easier said than done, but with the guidance of some experienced experts we've been picking up some real tricks of the trade lately.

For that gal who first outed herself at our girls' night, it was Laura Esmaili's stew recipe here on Just A Pinch Recipes that put her on the track to basmati salvation.

"This is just a great stew for spring and summer," says Laura of her Blue Ribbon Asparagus and Lamb Stew dish.

With tons of fresh meat and veggies, the sleeper star of Laura's recipe is that supple, savory rice. How does she do it? Rather unconventionally! She starts with well-salted water and boils it for just 15 minutes. The par-boiled rice then gets a quick bath in cold water before it's returned to its pot for a toss with olive oil and 20 minutes of covered cooking! The result is a perfectly tender grain of rice without any of that dreaded starchy mush.

Home cook Carol Junkins has been collecting rice recipes and tips like these in her online discussion group devoted to all things rice.

"This is a great group for us all to share our favorite rice recipes," explains Carol in the description of her chat group, Rice Is Nice. "[There are] so many great recipes, please share yours with us!"

Within Carol's group you can find recipes for everything from rice pudding made in the Crock Pot to traditional curries that have been passed down through generations. The common bond is the members' shared love of cooking with rice.

"I just wanted to share this," said group member Joanna Hatcher of Hartford, AL. "It has helped me get super-fluffy, non-sticky rice time after time!"

The "it" Joanna refers to is her own super easy, super reliable method for turning out well cooked rice. Her secret starts with uncooked grains that have been well rinsed to remove some of the starch. Cook as you normally would, but leave the lid slightly ajar. When holes or "craters" begin to form within the cooking rice, pop that lid on tight and turn the heat down to low for another fifteen minutes or so. Before you know it, voila! Perfect rice every time.

So many great rice recipes, so little time! These days that's the only problem we have cooking rice.. keeping up with all the terrific dishes! Here's a peek at what we've been dishing up: >> Rice Recipe Sampler!

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Pam Ellingson - Apr 8, 2013
Vickie, click on Cooking Community Tab at the top of the page, and then scroll through the Discussion Groups available. Find the one that says General Questions and join it, then post your questions there. It is much more likely that more people will see it to answer. (To post to Facebook, just go to your recipe, and find the Share box with the FB icon. Click that and you should be on your way to posting to FB.) Glad to have you here with us and don't hesitate to ask questions. We are here to help you. :)
Angie Wink - Apr 7, 2013
Vicky, maybe it means other people pinched it and gave it 5 stars. I haven't had the nerve to post a recipe yet, but I'm trying to get the nerve to do it. Kuddos on putting it out there.
Angie Wink - Apr 7, 2013
Meg, do you turn the oven on, or just leave it there in cold oven? And is it gas or electric?
Meg Nuto - Apr 7, 2013
I have found the method that works best for me is to wash rice well, until water is clear, Preheat oven to 350. Then start rice on top of the stove, covered, until it begins to boil. Once it has begun to boil, stir it once and then placed covered pot in over for 20 minutes. i can't take credit for this method, I learned it from Martha Stewart!
Richard Berry - Apr 6, 2013
40 lashes.....
Vickie Clyburn-Johnson - Apr 6, 2013
I don't know what I'm doing here. I just posted my first recipe and it says I pinched it twice, but I don't remember pinching it at all. It gave me 5 stars somehow, and I swear I didn't do it! Maybe I accidentally did it, but I didn't mean to. Could someone please give me some guidance. I would like to post it on my facebook page, but I can't figure that out either. I'm sorry. I would appreciate any help, if someone finds this message. I'm not even sure I'm suppose to post questions here, but it was the only place I could find. :( I'm really sorry about this!
Angie Wink - Apr 4, 2013
I love rice with everything, so I got an electric rice cooker with a steamer that goes on top. Instant meals, no problems. Love it. The rice can be used any way I want it, including fried rice the next day.
Carol Junkins - Apr 3, 2013
Whew everyone has their own way of cooking rice I see ~ geez ~ I think I will buy a rice cooker, although I make mine in a regular pot with water, butter and always put 1 cup of rice 2 cups of water for 20 minutes let sit without removing the cover for another 5 minutes, always comes out good, but like was already mentioned if your cooking a variety of veggies, etc. a rice cooker will free up a burner!
Denise Phillips - Apr 3, 2013
I finally figured out what works for me. I use long grain rice, Mahatma is the brand I usually buy. I use 1 part rice to 2 parts water. I get the water boiling and add a pinch of salt. Once water is boiling I add the rice, cover and turn down low. I cook for about 15 to 20 minutes. The rice comes out great. I have an electric stove by the way which means the temperature doesn't go down as quickly as a gas stove.

I do have a rice cooker but only tried it a couple of times. Maybe I need to get it out again.
Pam Charters - Apr 3, 2013
I put rice(non rinsed if want) to double boiling water 2 tbsp marg/butter covered casserole 325 center oven 25 mins,longer or shorter due to amount rice.Make sure plenty room in your casserole does not boil over,leave covered,take out when done perfectly cooked rice every time.I like the is method best as I can cook meat or other things while this is making.I first did this method when I was a cook in hospital years ago,only way I & my now grown kids cook rice,had rice cookers over years this worked far better for me
Sonny Diaz - Apr 3, 2013
Buy a rice cooker to save you from guessing, it is cheap (I bought mine for below 10 dollars for a 2 cups rice cooker). Buy the American rice (eg Calrose or Blue Ribbon) when you want them to fall apart after cooking,which is perfect for fried rice, buy Asian variety (eg Jasmine rice) for a little sticky and moist rice. The convenience of a rice cooker is the best way to deal with cooking it right, now you got time to cut up your meat, veggies, etc as add ons... while waiting for the rice to cook in the rice cooker...
Terri Taylor - Apr 3, 2013
If you have a microwave, you have a "rice cooker". 1 cup rice, 2 1/2 cups cold salted water. Rinse rice until water runs clear. In a medium sized, microwave safe bowl, place rice and salted water. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Using toothpick, poke several holes into plastic wrap. I have a 900 watt microwave. I microwave my rice for 15 minutes and let set undisturbed in microwave for 5 more minutes. Would probably need less cooking time for higher wattage microwaves. As microwaves cooking times vary, I'd start with at least 10 minutes then check water level in rice. Cook at 5 minute increments until desired doneness is achieved. In some 900 watt microwaves, it may take up to 20 minutes. But once you get it right, use the same cooking time, resting time, every time, for perfectly tender, non sticky rice, every time! :D
Secret to Basmati rice is, after rinsing it, soak in cold water for 1 hour. Drain. To cook it, As a general rule add 1 3/4 cups of water for each cup of basmati rice. Place your pan with the cold water and rice on the stove (you can add a little salt if you like). Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 mins. It is very important NOT to touch your rice once it is cooking. Do NOT lift the lid at all, but turn off heat and let rice sit for about 5 minutes. Add a little olive oil, or butter, stir and serve. Hope this has been helpful!
Cherie Shockley - Apr 3, 2013
I am a retired chef. When cooking rice it is very important to rise the rice until the water runs clear or almost clear. This rinses the starch which will make the rice sticky. I never use a rice cooker. I use the oven to cook my rice. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9x9 or 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Pour the rinsed rice into the pan. Spread the rice to even it out. Pour water or other liquid over the rice, if the rice is 1/4 inch deep the water or liquid should be approx. 1/2 inch deep. Cover tightly with foil and place in the middle of the oven. Bake for 35 min.
Turn off oven. Do not remove from oven and do not remove the foil! Let stand in the oven for about 15 minutes. This allows the steam to finish it's job. Remove from the oven and remove foil. Let the rice rest and cool for about 15 minutes without stirring. Fluff and season to taste. It is also worth noting that I do not salt the water or use oil or butter. I add these after the rice is cooked. Salt hardens the shell of the rice just as it does with beans. Perfect rice every time!!!!
Terry Salls - Apr 2, 2013
I have struggled for years to consistently cook brown rice and finally discovered the PERFECT method! Every stove is different and this works no matter what! In a large pot, bring 4 times the amount of water as the rice you will cook (i.e. 4 cups water to 1 cup rice). Add your rice, lower the temp to a slow boil and cook for 30 minutes. Turn off heat, drain rice, cover tightly with lid and let sit for 10 minutes. The rice will be the lightest, fluffiest you have ever eaten!!! Don't worry about pouring off vitamins because those in rice are not water soluble like in vegetables. You just pour off the sticky starch. Best of luck!
Sue Lee - Apr 2, 2013
Rice cookers are great too. They make good rice while freeing up other cooking sources when making a varied menu.