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RICE

Perfect Basmati

May 12, 1999|BARBARA HANSEN and NINA SIMONDS

To cook the perfect pot of rice, cookbook authors Julie Sahni and Naomi Duguid agree that it's important to be attentive, especially when you're learning. Once the routine is set, the steps will become automatic. They offer the following suggestions:

* Get a nice heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid.

* Wash the rice by swirling it around gently with your hands until the water runs clear.

* Some rices--especially Basmati--cook better if they are soaked in cold water to cover for a half-hour to an hour before cooking. For Basmati, soak it in 1 3/4 cups of water, which you will then use for cooking.

* For most long-grain varieties, bring 1 cup of rice to a boil with 1 3/4 to 2 cups water, depending on the rice and on how moist you want it. Reduce heat to very low and simmer until moisture is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Once the grains are tender and craters have appeared, remove the rice from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 10 minutes.

* For Jasmine, use 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water for every cup of rice and follow the above method.

* For Basmati, boil 1 cup of rice and the 1 3/4 cups of water in which it has been soaking over medium-high heat, partially covered, until moisture is absorbed and steam holes appear on top of the rice, 8 to 10 minutes. Cover pan entirely, reduce heat to very low and cook 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes.

"[The final rest] is when the grains firm up. If you really want to ruin rice, this is the time to fluff it up," Sahni warns. "Once it is firm, I say you can put it on a chair and sit on it, and it won't break."

Julie Sahni's Classic Basmati Rice

Active Work Time: 5 minutes. Total Preparation Time: 55 minutes.

1 cup Basmati rice

1 3/4 cups water plus water for washing rice

* Place rice in fine sieve and run cold water over it. Turn into a bowl and cover with water. Skim off any bran or foreign matter that comes to surface. Drain rice.

* Place rice in pan in which it will be cooked, preferably 1-quart anodized aluminum or stainless steel saucepan. Add 1 3/4 cups water. Let stand at least 30 minutes, but no longer than 2 hours.

* Do not drain. Place pan on burner and turn on heat. Bring to boil and cook rapidly, partially covered, until moisture is absorbed and steam holes appear on top of rice, 8 to 10 minutes.

* Cover pan, reduce heat to very low and cook 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes.

4 servings. Each serving:

168 calories; 2 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 37 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.1 gram fiber.

Alternative: Although Basmati is best if cooked as outlined above, a lot of Indian restaurants use this quick method: Soak 1 cup rice in water to cover 30 minutes to 2 hours. Bring 8 cups water to rapid boil. Drain rice and add to boiling water. Stir gently so it does not stick to bottom of pan. Do not lower temperature. Let water return to boil and cook exactly 4 minutes. Drain rice and serve at once.

Sahni's Brown Basmati Method

Active Work Time: 5 minutes. Total Preparation Time: 60 minutes

After the rice has boiled, it should be steamed over very low heat. Because a gas flame can go out if it's too low, use a heat diffuser to temper the heat.

1 cup brown Basmati rice

2 cups water

* Soak rice in water at least 30 minutes. Drain soaking liquid into 2-quart saucepan. Bring to full rolling boil. Add rice. Bring to boil uncovered. Continue to boil uncovered on medium heat until rice has absorbed all water, 10 to 15 minutes. Cover and cook on low heat 10 to 15 minutes.

4 servings. Each serving: 168 calories; 2 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 37 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.1 gram fiber.

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