Rice - types & uses

02/02/2013 11:04

Rice is known to have been cultivated in China as long ago as 5,000 BC and has been and still is a staple food in various countries. The rice plant is a grass. It is related to wheat, oats, and barley. There are two main species of rice 'Oryza sativa' and 'Oryza glaberrima.' Rice can be grown practically anywhere. Rice does requires a lot of water throughout its growth. When first planted, rice plants need to be submerged in water to fight weeds, so the fields must be flooded. Rice fields are called paddy fields. In hilly areas, the paddy fields are terraced down the hill-sides. In spring the soil is ploughed in order to stir up the soil ready for planting the seedlings.

Rice is harvested from the rice plant or grass. It is the seed that grows at the top of the plant. The seeds of the rice plant are first collected and then milled to remove the husks. After this process the rice is called brown rice. Further refinement is needed to create white rice.


Though there are many different types, the rice we buy is mainly of two kinds ~ long grain- most brown and white rice and short grain - risotto and pudding rice. Its cheap, nutritious and versatile - stock up on this staple!

The long, thin grains means it will cook to seperate, dry grains.

BASMATI ~ traditionally from the Punjabi region of India. It has a wonderfully aromatic flavour and is used for most Indian rice dishes, such as Biryani, Pilafs and Kedgeree.

JASMINE ~ is similar to Indian basmati, but it is slightly sticker. It has a mild, floral flavour and is quite often used in Thai dishes.

AMERICAN ~ widely used, but it is rather bland. Good rice to Serve with stews and casseroles or use for salads or stuffings.

Has a slightly shorter grain than the long grain rice, usually used for rice salads.

PAELLA RICE ~ the starch in medium grain gives a wonderful creamy finish to paella.

ITALIAN ARBORIO RICE ~ risotto is made using medium-short grain varieties. These have an undeveloped starch in the centre of each grain, which gives a firm 'bite'to the rice once cooked. It absorbs at least twice its volume of liquid and becomes creamy and tender during long, slow cooking.

Shorter grains that have the highest starch level and goes sticky once cooked. Used most widely in Asia as its stickness means its easier to eat  with chopsticks.

PUDDING RICE ~ the grains are almost as broad as they are long and produces a sticky result when cooked slowly in the oven. Makes a delicious creamy rice pudding.

ITALIAN CARNOROLI ~ a similar rice to Arborio, but has shorter grains. The classic rice for risotto, this grain produces a creamy, velvety risotto yet still retaining some 'bite'.


There are various ways of cooking rice. For lovely fluffy rice that doesn't stick together  ~  Soak or wash the rice before cooking ~ rinse long-grain in cold running water using a sieve, until it runs clear, this removes excess starch, which make the rice stick togther during cooking. Cook the rice in a large quantity of simmering water, don't boil your rice rapidly otherwise it will make the grains break up. Don't stir long- grain varieties either, as this crushes the grains, releasing starch and making the rice sticky. When the rice is almost cooked, remove from the heat, drain well and return it to the pan, cover with a lid and leave for a couple of minutes to finish cooking in its own steam.

* Tip ~ When cooling or reheating rice it's very important not to let it stay warm, spores of a bacteria are often found in rice and can be harmful if the rice is cooled slowly or not reheated thoroughly. It's best to cool cooked rice for a cold dish by rinsing it with cold water and placing it straight into the fridge in a covered container. When reheating the rice it should be piping hot all the way through.


~ A few recipes using rice ~

Stuffed Peppers with Rice  

Roast Squash wiith Cranberries

Pilau Rice with Raisins & Pistachios


Baked Rice Pudding 

Butternut Squash Risotto