There are two things that are important in our modern hectic lives: speed and economy. It’s the same with regard to food. We might not want to spend time slaving for hours in the kitchen, and perhaps we have more financial anxiety than ever before. Yes, we could go out for cheap (and often nasty) “fast” food, but how’s about cooking at home …and, no, you won’t have to spend hours chained to the stove.
You could jump in the car and head for a dubious burger or a hutful of pizza. You could pick up the phone and order a meal that will arrive shaken and late. Both options are fine periodically; let us not pretend that we have never passed under the shadow of a golden arch nor reached for that well-thumbed restaurant menu pinned to the kitchen wall. But there is an alternative. Rice.
200 Risottos and Rice Dishes offers the reader, well, 200 risottos and rice dishes! The majority of these recipes take only 20 minutes to prepare. They are by nature economic as they have rice in various guises as the main ingredient. We all have it in our store cupboard and it’s in every supermarket. Yes, there are a couple of recipes that demand exotic rice, but mostly they take advantage of the common sorts with which you will already be familiar.
Rice, like pasta, is a universally loved food. Much of the world has rice as a staple. Kids enjoy eating it. Some of our favourite dinner party dishes showcase these humble grains. There are spicy dishes, herby dishes, vegetarian dishes and sweet dishes.
The recipes here are mostly for complete meals, although there are step-by-step instructions on cooking just plain rice. If you cook more than is needed for your side dish then you’ll have plenty left for the next day. You could use that rice for Rice with Leeks, Ginger and Cumin, and you could be eating it in just 15 minutes. There is a good selection of dishes here that use cooked rice, but be sure to keep that pre-prepared rice in the fridge and use those left-overs within 24 hours.
200 Risottos and Rice Dishes has something for every taste. Biryani, Paella, classic Risotto, Nasi Goreng, Chinese Fried Rice and more are listed. Perhaps my savoury pick of the book is Pilaf with Saffron and Chicken. This only takes 15 minutes to prepare and 35 minutes to cook. Just time enough to load the dishwasher, lay the table and open a bottle of light red. This book suggests a vegetarian alternative of Tofu and Mushroom Pilaf Rice, which sounds delightful.
I am a lover of old-fashioned rice pudding. A nice dusting of nutmeg on the top and some sticky burnt bits around the Pyrex casserole always gave me great joy. These days I am more often tempted by coconut rice, either as part of a main course or as a dessert. 200 Risottos and Rice Dishes has Coconut Rice with Cardamom. I am addicted to that aromatic spice and I therefore assume it will shortly be banned by the powers-that-be in Brussels! This is a simple yet classy dessert that works very well at the end of an Indian meal, a Western meal, after lunch of any description, as a snack, and probably for breakfast.
200 Risottos and Rice Dishes costs less than a fiver. It’s a practical little book with a picture for every recipe, which is always reassuring for a novice. There are no taxing cooking methods to master and no especially imported equipment to buy. These are sensible recipes for delicious dishes that won’t break the bank.
200 Risottos and Rice Dishes
Authors: Laurence and Gilles Laurendon
Published by: Hamlyn
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018