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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Rosie Sykes

Rosie Sykes’ budget recipes with short-grain rice

Rosie Sykes' rice pancake with stir-fried vegetables.
Rosie Sykes’ rice pancakes with stir-fried vegetables and peanut sauce. Photograph: Yuki Sugiura/The Guardian. Food styling: Hanna Miller. Prop styling: Louie Waller. Food styling assistant: Isobel Clarke.

Short-grain rice is the squat, stubby cousin of the rice family, and it tends to be starchier than its bigger siblings, which means it can clump and stick together, especially when cooked by the absorption method. That makes it great for turning into a crisp stir-fry or rice balls or sushi; the starch also helps if you want to make creamy dishes such as rice pudding and risotto. However you use it, though, short-grain rice is a hugely handy store-cupboard staple because of its sheer versatility, taking you from savoury to sweet.

Rice pancakes with stir-fried vegetables and peanut sauce

These simple rice pancakes are a great standby supper, not least because you can fill them with whatever you fancy; they also freeze well. The idea is to use the starchy rice-cooking liquid in the pancakes, to give them a slightly glutinous quality. I’ve used a ready-made stir-fry mix, because it works out well economically, but use your own favourite vegetable combination. If you wish, add some chicken, prawns or tofu, too, though that would obviously increase the cost of the dish.

Prep 10 min
Cool 40 min
Cook 45 min
Serves 4

For the pancakes
Sea salt and black pepper
80g jasmine rice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
, plus extra for greasing
125g plain flour

For the peanut sauce
80g crunchy peanut butter
1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ tbsp sweet or hot chilli sauce
, to taste
Juice of ½ lime (optional)

For the stir-fry
2 tbsp vegetable oil
350g mixed stir-fry vegetables
1 small handful coriander

To serve
Lime wedges
2 spring onions
, trimmed and finely sliced
1 fresh chilli, finely chopped

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, add the rice, turn down the heat and simmer for 12 minutes. Drain the rice thoroughly, reserving the liquid, return the rice to the pan, leave to steam for three minutes, then set aside to cool down.

Meanwhile, make the peanut dressing. Put the peanut butter in a bowl, stir in 30ml boiling water, or enough to loosen it to a stirrable consistency, then mix in the garlic and ginger paste, soy sauce and chilli sauce. Season to taste and squeeze in some lime juice, too, if you like.

Once the rice liquid is cold, measure out 225ml (top up with water and/or milk,if need be), then whisk in the vegetable oil. Whisk the flour and a little salt in a bowl, make a well in the centre, pour in the liquid and mix to make a batter. Leave to sit for five minutes.

Put a little oil in a medium-sized frying pan on a medium heat, then pour in enough batter to cover the base in a thin layer, a bit like a crepe. Once it’s set underneath, flip it over and cook on the other side, then put on a tray, cover with foil and keep warm in a low oven while you cook the remaining batter.

Once all the pancakes are made, put a little vegetable oil in a large frying pan, then tip in the cooked rice and stir-fry on a high heat until it’s crisp and brown in places. Add the vegetables, season generously with salt and stir-fry until wilted and slightly caramelised. Toss through two thirds of the peanut sauce and the chopped coriander.

Serve the pancakes and stir-fry with the remaining peanut sauce, lime wedges, spring onions and chilli on the side, as well as any other accoutrements you fancy. I like to cover half a pancake with some of the stir-fry, scatter over some spring onions and chilli, squeeze over some lime and fold over the other half of the pancake.

Oven-baked tomato rice with butter beans

Rosie Sykes’ oven-baked tomato rice
Rosie Sykes’ oven-baked tomato rice. Photograph: Yuki Sugiura/The Guardian. Food styling: Hanna Miller. Prop styling: Louie Waller. Food styling assistant: Isobel Clarke.

Cooking short-grain rice in the oven is a breeze. Once you’ve got the hang of the very simple technique, adapt what you put into the mix – omit the tomatoes, say, and add a bit more stock and an array of other vegetables (peas would be top of my list, incidentally). Serve with a simple salad.

Prep 10 min
Cook 1 hr 15 min
Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
30g butter
1 x 400g tin butter beans

2 medium red onions, peeled and finely diced
15g basil, leaves picked, stalks very finely chopped
Sea salt and black pepper
250g cherry tomatoes
, cut in half
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
280g short-grain rice
200g feta
– the good-value stuff is usually sold as ‘Greek-style salad cheese’
80g black olives

Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Put the oil and butter in an ovenproof pan for which you have a lid and put it in the oven to heat up.

Drain the liquid from the butter bean can into a large measuring jug, then add boiling water to bring it up to 840ml. Pour this into a saucepan on a medium heat, and keep it hot.

Stir the onion, basil stalks and a good pinch of salt into the hot casserole, cover and return to the oven for 15 minutes, until the onions soften. Stir in the tomatoes, cover again and return to the oven for another 15 minutes, until they, too, soften and release some of their liquid; stir once halfway, to check how they’re getting on and to give them a little mash up to encourage those juices to flow. Stir in the garlic and return to the oven uncovered for three minutes.

Stir the rice into the pot, so it’s all well coated in the tomato mixture. Pour in the hot bean liquid, give everything a good stir and return to the oven uncovered for 20 minutes. By this point, the rice should have absorbed two-thirds of the liquid, so add a little more boiling water if there’s less than that left. Stir in the butter beans and return to the oven for 12 minutes, by which time the liquid should have all been absorbed and the rice should be cooked; it’s not meant to be entirely dry, so add some more boiling water if you prefer it wetter.

Take out of the oven, stir in the feta and olives, cover the pan with a clean cloth and leave to rest and settle for five minutes.

Tear in most of the basil leaves, stir them through the rice, then spoon into warm bowls and serve with the remaining basil scattered on top.

  • Rosie Sykes is a chef and food writer. Her next book, Every Last Bite: 70 Recipes to Save Time, Money and Resources, will be published by Quadrille next year.

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