Cold remedy 2: Nigel Slater’s aromatic rice

The ideal response to the end of a cold is a Vietnamese soup like this, a Thai one like this or a curry like this. However, since I didn’t have the ingredients for any of those in my cupboards, I was somewhat limited. Constraint, though, as I’m discovering, is a marvellous thing; it is forcing me to be inventive and try recipes that I’ve rarely bothered with because, well, they don’t require much and don’t seem that exciting. This one from Appetite might sound really dull whereas, in reality, it is just wonderful: comforting yet healthy, quick, cheap, perfect on its own but also good as a side dish. And if, like me, you make too much of it, you have the makings of the best fried rice on the planet the next day (refry the rice in a little oil, add some shredded greens, fish sauce and soy sauce; scramble in an egg and voilà).

I made a version of this a long time ago and, actually, I prefer the original. The proportions are Slater-vague so you might need to tweak the timings a little (I’ve varied the first stage of cooking from 10-12 minutes) but, since the second stage of steaming will cook away any residual liquid, don’t worry too much if, like me, you peek and check on it at the end of the first and it seems a bit wet. He measures his rice/water with a cup/handful (1 part rice to 3 of water) but I weighed mine. So if you use a cup/mug the amount you make will obviously depend on the size of cup you use. Honestly though, make extra; fried rice is a gift from the leftover and store cupboard gods.

For two portions

Cupboard (or things you may already have)
small white onion
neutral oil, like sunflower
2 garlic cloves
2-3 whole cloves
cinnamon stick
4-5 cardamom pods
small red chilli, stalk and all
basmati rice, 200g
fresh coriander, a handful (if you have it; I didn’t)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

How to
1. Peel, top and tail and finely chop the onion then soften it in a splash of oil in a lidded saucepan.
2. Squash the garlic with the blade of a knife and add it, unpeeled or peeled (it’s fine either way), to the onions with all the spices. Stir well and leave to cook for a minute or two.
3. Add the rice to the pan, stir to mix in, then add 700ml water and bring to the boil.
4. Now, lower the heat to a simmer, season with salt, cover and leave for ten minutes without ever lifting the lid.
5. After ten minutes, take the pan off the heat and leave it to stand for another ten minutes. Again, resist the temptation to peek…
6. Finally, fluff the rice with a fork, season with more salt and some black pepper and stir in the coriander if using.

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