It must be the cold weather, as I find myself cooking warming, comforting bowlfuls of food so much more: stews, curries, creamy soups, porridge and rice bowls. January 2017 has been the month of me discovering the joys of a good rice bowl, and this easy dish has fast become my go-to weeknight recipe.
I first discovered the basic recipe in Simply Nigella, and was instantly attracted by the bright colours of roasted pink radishes and fleshy green avocado. Nigella’s attitude towards this dish is reassuringly laid-back, stating ‘the only constant is the rice.’
You’re free to throw in pretty much whatever you have in your fridge and experiment with your own variations, which I’ve been doing. Having such a large degree of flexibility is a great way to stop a standard dish becoming boring. I’ve used different types of meat & fish, kept it vegetarian and roasted whatever vegetables I’ve had to hand (broccoli and baby aubergines are favourites). I’ve played with the flavours, sometimes swapping out the East Asian influences of soya and ginger and going for homemade Italian pesto instead.
Here, though, is the basic Simply Nigella rice bowl recipe (with my own tweaks given as well):
Easy Rice Bowl (serves 2)
3/4 cup short grain brown rice (I use a great cooking cheat here, by buying precooked brown rice from Sainsburys. All you do is pop the package in the microwave for 2 minutes, and you’re done)
1 cup cold water (not needed if you do my cheat above)
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled (Nigella clearly loves her ginger! This really depends on your taste – I only use a thin sliver per bowl, finely chopped, and find that adds enough gingery kick for me. Experiment to find your own preference!)
4-6 radishes (I usually roast more than this, as I love radishes)
2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp organic raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup mixed seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or sesame seeds
3-4 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 small ripe avocado
1/ If you’re cooking the rice yourself, put the rice and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it’s bubbling, put on the lid, turn the heat down very low, and simmer for 25 minutes. Then turn off the heat, keeping the lid on, and let it stand for a further 5 minutes (honestly, though, just use my cheat!).
2/ While the rice is cooking (or before bunging it in the microwave), peel a small piece of ginger and cut it finely. Cut the radishes into quarters or eighths lengthways, depending on their size. Put them on a baking tray, sprinkle over some olive oil and roast in a hot (about 220 C) oven for 10 minutes or so – make sure you check on them so they don’t burn. If you’re short on time, you don’t have to roast the radishes – they’re nice raw too.
3/When the rice is cooked, spoon into a mixing bowl. Add the tamari or soy sauce and the apple cider vinegar to the bowl and toss with a fork to combine, and then do the same with the ginger, radishes, and seeds. Stir all but a little of the chopped cilantro into the rice.
4/Divide between 2 smallish bowls and top with avocado, either cut into strips or chunks. Sprinkle each with the remaining cilantro, and enjoy! I also like to top mine with some cooked ham, a fried egg, or even some white crab-meat or prawns. In the words of Gwyneth Paltrow, it’s all good!
Another rice-centric dish I’ve discovered, which makes an excellent weekend breakfast, is Finnish rice porridge. Jamie Oliver has a recipe for it in his recent Christmas cookbook, but I was inspired by a Finnish instagrammer I follow, who posted a recipe for rice porridge on her account. I made a few changes myself, adding a little flavouring of rose water, which I thought was rather nice. Also, quite frankly I wasn’t so keen on the hours and hours of cooking and stirring, so I used the microwave to shortcut the process. Here’s my recipe:
Finnish Rice Porridge (serves 2)
50g pudding rice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ cups evaporated milk
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon rose water
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/Place all ingredients in a large glass bowl, cover with clingfilm (leaving a small gap for steam to escape) and place in microwave. Cook on full power for 8 minutes (or until boiling), then remove and stir well. Recover with clingfilm and cook on low power for 20 minutes.
2/Next, place the mixture in a cast iron saucepan over low heat and stir frequently until you get a creamy, rice-pudding consistency (approximately 20-30 minutes).
3/Spoon into two bowls and serve with whatever toppings you like: I suggest strawberry jam, fresh berries and toasted almonds and/or seeds.
What types of comfort food to you like to make this time of year?