Rice is one of the most important food grains in the world and is the staple food of millions of people. Cultivated rice, oryza sativa, has been known in India, where it is supposed to have originated, since about 3,000 B.C.

Rice is now produced in Asia, Africa, Latin America, parts of Europe, Australia and the United States. The latter is one of the world’s largest exporters of rice; although Asia grows a large amount, very little is exported as they require most of it for their own use. Most varieties grow on land submerged in water although there is a variety known as upland rice which grows on dry land.

Because it keeps well, cooks more quickly and has a better appearance, most rice is milled before it is marketed. Milling removes the bran skin which lies under the husk, therefore some of the protein, minerals and vitamins are lost.

Brown rice which has only the husk removed is more nutritious than other varieties and is often used in vegetarian dishes.

There are about 7,000 varieties of rice and almost as many colours – rice may be red, brown, blue, purple, black or ivory.

Long, short and round-grain rice are the three most commonly used varieties in Western cooking.

Rice can be bought in several forms, among them are parboiled, precooked (which only requires reconstituting in hot water) and boil-in-bag packs. Rice is also ground and used for puddings, or very finely ground to make rice flour for use in cakes and biscuits .

WILD RICE, zinzania aquatica, is not a true rice, but a water grass which grows only in North America in swamps and shallow coastal waters.

Rice which is to be served as an accompaniment for a curry or used to make a pilaff or biryani should be a long-grain variety such as Patna or basmati, the latter being the better. Risottos are best made with absorbent Italian rice such as Avorio or crystalo. Round-grain rice is most suitable for rice puddings.

Rice absorbs liquids in varying amounts. Each variety, and sometimes different crops of the same variety, have unequal powers of absorption. The amount of liquid given in any recipe, therefore, can only be approximate. When cooking rice, check halfway through the cooking time and add more liquid if necessary.

Rice, when cooked, increases 2h to 3 times in bulk, so 1 cup of uncooked rice will yield between 2 and 3 cups of cooked rice.

Servings vary with appetite and custom but, on average, allow about 2 ounces of cooked rice per person.

To cook 10 ounces of uncooked long-grain rice, wash thoroughly in cold running water. When the water runs clear, leave the rice to soak for 30 minutes, then drain.

Put the rice in a medium-sized sauce-pan. Pour over

1 pint of water and add

1 teaspoon of salt. Place the pan over high heat and bring the water to the boil. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and simmer for

15 TO 20 minutes or until the rice is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and serve.

In a large frying-pan, heat

3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over moderately high heat. When the oil is very hot, add

3 lightly beaten eggs. Before the eggs set too firmly, add lj pounds cold, cooked long-grain-rice and

1 teaspoon of salt. Fry, stirring constantly, for

3 TO 4 minutes or until all the grains of rice are coated with the oil. (Other ingredients such as diced cooked ham and spring onions may be added at this point to make a more substantial dish.) Remove the pan from the heat and serve.

Italian rice is cooked in a completely different way. It is a thick, short-grain, highly absorbent rice and requires slow cooking. The liquid is added a little at a time, the first amount being absorbed before more is added..

Preheat the oven to cool 300°F (Gas Mark 2, 150°C). Grease a 2-pint baking dish with 2 teaspoons of butter. Place H ounces of round-grain rice,

2 tablespoons sugar, li pints milk and

1 teaspoon vanilla essence or

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg in the dish. Place the dish in the oven and bake the pudding for

3 hours. If a richer pudding is required, beat in

2 egg yolks

30 minutes before the end of the cooking / Brown Rice 2 Avorio Rice3 Basmati Rice 4 Wild Rice 5 Round-Grain Rice 6 Ground Rice 7 Rice Flour 8 Natural Rice 9 Rice

Paper, similar in name only, comes from an Asiatic tree. time. For a more attractive appearance remove the dish from the oven, sprinkle the top of the pudding with 1 tablespoon of sugar and place the dish under a hot grill for 1 minute to glaze.

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