There seems to be a great mystery behind rice cookery, probably because there are different ways to cook different rice of different ages and from different cuisines. One typical Mediterranean way of cooking rice is pilaf, a style used in Persia and India from where it comes.
Always use raw long grain rice when making rice pilaf, never a processed product such as converted rice. The most important thing to know about pilaf cookery is the absorptive capacity of the rice you are using, something you can learn only through trial and error. Ideally, you will use a rice with which youíve already cooked. The absorptive capacity of the rice is based mostly on its age; rice older than six months is best, although it is very difficult for you to know this. In the end, donít worry about it.
Pilaf is originally a Persian word, and it seems very likely that the Arabs and Turks both learned how to cook rice from them and the Persians may have learned the method from the Indians. The best rice for pilaf are the long grain Basmati or Patna rice, both named for places in India. A long grain American rice is also fine, but not converted rice as Iíve said before.
Pilaf cookery refers to the method of making rice in the cuisines of the Middle East. Once cooked, the rice is tender and each grain is separate and fluffy, not sticky.
First, soak the rice in warm water for 30 minutes. Some cooks use hot water, others cold, and some add salt. Alternatively, if you are time-pressed, pour the rice into a fine-mesh strainer and leave it under running water, rubbing with your fingers for a minute. This rinsing or soaking process removes the starch so that the grains will remain separate after cooking. The rinsed and drained rice is sautéed briefly at this point in cooking fat, clarified butter or butter being typical, before the introduction of liquid. Whether you add liquid to rice or rice to liquid, the liquid should be boiling or at least hot, although generally no great harm will be done if you use cold water. The ratio of liquid to rice can be anywhere from 2 to 1 (most common) to one to one. I always use a 1 Ĺ to 1 ratio. Once the rice is in the pot, you must never stir or tamper with it. The rice is always covered when cooking.
According to the Turkish food authority Nevin Halıcı, Turkish families use a number of methods to cook rice. In the salma, or free flowing, method, rice is poured in a slow stream into boiling liquid until the liquid is absorbed and then heated fat is poured over. In the sŁzme, or strained, method rice is boiled in salted water, strained, and then fat is poured over. Lastly they might use the kavurna, or fried, method: the rice is first fried in fat and then cooked until the liquid is absorbed. I prefer this last method.
The rice should be cooked in a heavy saucepan that has a tight-fitting lid. I believe a 2 to 4-quart enameled cast-iron saucepan is perfect for rice because it has a very heavy lid that captures the steam. Use either of the two methods below, using 1 cup of Basmati rice that has been soaking or rinsed:
●Bring 1 Ĺ cups of broth or water to a boil with 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Drain the soaking rice and place it in another heavy saucepan with a heavy lid. Pour in the boiling broth or water in a steady stream. Return to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 12 minutes, although times may vary. Remove the lid, cover with a paper towel to absorb steam, and replace the lid. Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest off the heat for 15 minutes.
●Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Drain the soaking rice and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 Ĺ cups hot or boiling broth or water and return to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, cover, and cook until the rice has absorbed the water, about 12 minutes, although times will vary. Sometimes, if I feel I might not be able to pay attention to the rice, I will turn the heat off once it reaches a boil, cover the top with paper towels and then the lid, and leave it undisturbed until all the liquid is absorbed, about 40 minutes.[photo: Clifford A. Wright]