Risotto This summer a friend of mine brought me quite an interesting present from her holiday on Ischia, Italy. Three small packets of different kinds of rice; one being brownish, one black and yellow and the third was all...


This summer a friend of mine brought me quite an interesting present from her holiday on Ischia, Italy. Three small packets of different kinds of rice; one being brownish, one black and yellow and the third was all colours like red, black, yellow and green. This week I finally managed to make a risotto from one of these choices, hoping that a bit of colour would stick to the grains of rice. To my disappointment the exact opposite happened. The colours were diluted by the liquid, turning it into a brownish mixture; not appealing at all! Moreover, the flavour was somehow difficult to identify, the liquid not only eliminating the distinct colours but also their wonderful flavours (which I´ll talk about later on).  And so, I decided to upgrade this blurry risotto with some veggies, adding zucchini, cherry tomatoes and at the very end, some spring onions. We shouldn’t forget to add a glass of nice white wine for cooking and of course, some parmesan and butter to finish. So even though we didn´t have colourful rice, the dish resulting, was full of colour and taste! How fortunate for us that risotto is such a flexible dish.

All this has inspired me to write a special blog on such a simple ingredient as rice.

“Academic rice knowledge”

-originated in China (just to revise)

-second highest worldwide production, after maize (corn)

-rice is the most important grain regarding human nutrition

-provides over one fifth of the calories consumed by humans all over the world

-cultivation is the most convenient in countries with low labour costs and high rainfall, as it is labour-intensive to cultivate and requires much water

-there is even an International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines

-Rice cultivation on wetland rice fields is said to be responsible for 1.5% of the anthropogenic methane emissions

There are four major categories of rice worldwide: indicia, japonica, aromatic and glutinous

- Indicia rice- a long grain and when cooked does not stick together but remains light and fluffy

- Japonica rice- cultivated in Japan, it consists of short translucent grains. Sticky when cooked and can easily be picked up and eaten with chopsticks. Outside of Japan it is sometimes labeled as sushi rice. Another use is to produce sake.

- Glutinous rice (sticky rice, sweet rice or waxy rice) (glutinous refer to the glue-like characteristic of rice; does not refer to "gluten").

- Aromatic rice - basmati, jasmine, Texmati, Wehani, and wild pecan rice. When cooked, the grains have a light and fluffy texture.

Short-grain rice is very starchy and cooks up soft and sticky. It’s used for dishes like sushi, paella, and risotto.

Long-grain rice contains less starch so the cooked grains are drier and more separate. It’s often used in pilafs or dishes with a lot of sauce.

- Jasmine and basmati are long-grain varieties that have been cultivated to bring out distinctive flavour profiles. You may encounter these varieties in Indian and Asian cuisine

- Wild rice (Canada rice, Indian rice, and water oats) is not directly related to Asian rice, but it is more like its cousin. High in protein and dietary fiber, and low in fat. It is the second only to oats (quinoa was third) in its protein content.

- Camargue red rice – a new variety from Camargue, France. A short-grain, brownish colour, nutty flavour, longer cooking time and more protein, resulting in smaller portions required.

In general we can say the darker the rice, the more fiber and nutty, earthy flavour it has. The surface is usually more rigid even after a significant cooking time which takes about 45 min. The serving portion is usually smaller than the portion of regular rice due to its’ higher fiber content.

Instant or converted rice – both pre-cooked, need less time to get tender

Basmati, Texmati, Kasmati – international issue

Texmati and Kasmati - originated in America (said to be cultivated by interbreeding basmati and other rice varieties) but were attacked by India and said to be breaking the agreement of Trade related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

Colour of rice

Rice of future

-the new rice for Africa (NERICA) cultivars, developed to be suitable for dry ecosystems with a lack of rainfall. It is hoped that their cultivation will improve the economy and food security in West Africa.

Perennial rice are varieties of long-lived rice that are capable of re-growing season after season without reseeding.

Turning your rice into a different colour is actually very simple. Do you remember the episode of Bridget Jones when she was cooking her asparagus soup, keeping the asparagus together with a piece blue string? Of course, she ended up with blue soup. The principal of rice colouring is just the same, you add the ingredient of the colour you want your rice to be (don´t forget about the flavour intensity of each ingredient and the fact that natural sourness extends the cooking time re: tomatoes, lemon, etc….).

Yellow – curcuma, saffron, squash purée

Red - paprika

Orange – cook with carrot purée mixed with some soy sauce and butter

Pink – beetroot juice

Green – “St. Patrick’s Rice” being a blended mixture of cilantro and spinach, season with garlic, and cooked together. Perfect with Mexican dishes!

Black – squid ink

Blue – putting a blue string in the water........just kidding! ......but red cabbage juice turns water slightly bluish

Hope you´ve increased your “rice knowledge” a bit guys! If you want to stay up to date with my posts subscribe here.