Hello everyone, and welcome to the latest Spice Mountain newsletter; after our look through the A-Z of noodles last time, this week we’re taking a journey through the alphabet of rice. Most of us eat rice regularly, and I certainly love it! From biryani through to paella, or just as an accompaniment to a meal, rice is guaranteed to fill you up and leave you satisfied. I’m sure you’ll find some of your favourites here, as well as a few less well-known rice preparations.
I hope you are all doing well, and coming to terms with the new world we seem to have found ourselves in; it is certainly a different place to the one we lived in before the virus came along! Spice Mountain is doing lots more business online, so thank you for that, and our retail business is picking up a little but I’d just like to remind everyone that our shops are open as normal now (with all guidelines in place of course!). So if you can, come and see us at Borough Market or Westfield Stratford – you’re sure to have a safe shopping experience, and we’d love to see you!
Until next time, stay safe.
Spice of the Week
This blend of dehydrated vegetables and spices is designed to make the popular Indonesian/Malaysian fried rice dish, which can be enjoyed as a meal in itself or as an accompaniment to a main meal. The blend is based on leek and onion, combined with spices such as chilli, garlic, cumin, turmeric and coriander. It is easy and handy to use – simply rehydrate the blend in a little hot water, then add to your dish as required. Nasi Goreng blend is also useful away from fried rice – the blend can be used to boost soups, stews and sauces when a typically southeast Asian flavour is needed, and it works as well with noodles as it does with rice.
Buy Nasi Goreng mix
This Week's Recipes
This is a risotto which is bursting with flavour, and a wonderful way to use the asparagus which is still in the shops at the moment. The creamy bite of the rice combines with the garden freshness of the asparagus, all held together with a touch of cream and the tangy finish of pecorino (parmesan can be used, but the sharper flavour of pecorino is perfect here). As well as enjoying this by itself, it works very well as an accompaniment to simply-cooked seafood.
This is one of Japan’s greatest comfort foods, much loved by children and adults alike. It consists of a rice base, topped with chicken and egg, seasoned with the Japanese staples miso and seaweed flakes for a comforting umami flavour. The name literally translates as ‘parent and child bowl’, due to the chicken and eggs being used in the same dish. It is quick and easy, perfect for lunch or a light supper, and is a really authentic taste of Japan.
There are as many ways to make rice pudding as there are grains in a bag – it is a popular dessert in one form or another all over the world. This version however is as basic as it gets, and is the one my Nan made when I was a kid – Saturday lunchtimes when I went to stay there were either Shepherds’ Pie or Lancashire Hotpot, with rice pudding to follow, and I looked forward to it all week. The smell of the nutmeg as it was lifted from the oven is something I remember to this day. The amount of nutmeg used may seem a trifle excessive, but it is absolutely essential – no other seasoning is required! Serve as it comes, or with cream, and a drizzle of honey does it no harm whatsoever.
Cereal Winner - Spice Mountain's Rice A-Z
Among the most basic and elemental foodstuffs, rice is a staple over much of the world. It is part of every meal in countries such as China and India, filling and satisfying. As well as being something which is eaten with a meal, it is also the basis for dozens of classic dishes from Spain’s paella to the Indian biryani. This feature looks at the world of rice from A-Z, taking in dishes from many countries and explaining how rice plays a major part in the culture of food. You’ll find many popular favourites here, and also a few things you may not have come across, so hopefully there’ll be something for everyone. The poet William Blake wrote of seeing a world in a grain of sand, but we believe it would be more likely to see the world in a grain of rice, the word’s most valuable agricultural crop. Enjoy the journey!
A – Arancini. Italian food isn’t all about pizza and pasta, there’s a lot of rice involved too, and these beauties originating from Sicily are one of the best examples of this. Typically ball- or pyramid-shaped, they are made of risotto rice stuffed with fillings which can include meat ragu, spinach and ricotta or mushrooms, always with some cheese involved. They are then dipped in breadcrumbs and fried, so you get a crispy outside layer surrounding the sticky creamy rice, and finally in the middle the stuffing. The name arancini translates as ‘little oranges’, reflecting their shape and colour.
B – Biryani. Familiar to everyone, biryani originated in India and is now a very common dish anywhere which has an Indian population. Due to being popular in so many places, there are many versions of biryani, from a basic mix of rice and meat/veg to the luxurious and decadent Moghul style version which can include such luxury ingredients as saffron and gold leaf. A biryani should always come with gravy – in the south Indian version which is a staple too in southeast Asia this will usually be sambhar – and also other sides such as raita and chutney, making a full meal in one dish.
C – Congee. A Chinese breakfast dish, congee is basically a rice porridge, quite plain in flavour itself but livened up with the addition of various toppings which will usually have a strong salty or pickled flavour. They can include salted duck egg or dried fish of various kinds, and in Chinese communities organ meats such as tripe or intestine are very popular (although very much an acquired taste for the Western palate!) Congee also fills the role that chicken soup does in the West, viewed as a healthy and restorative food.
D – Dolmades. A staple of the mezze selection common from the Balkans through to the Middle East, dolmades are vine leaves stuffed with seasoned rice, occasionally involving meat as well. They will be familiar to anyone who has holidayed in Greece or Turkey, and the seasoning in these will often include cinnamon, allspice and mint. In past times, it was traditional to use vine leaves in summer and cabbage leaves in winter, and stuffed cabbage leaves are also a popular dish in eastern European countries such as Poland.
E – Etouffee. This is a dish native to Louisiana in the USA, like the jambalaya we look at elsewhere in this feature. Etouffee is traditionally made with crayfish, simmered in a roux-based sauce then served over rice. The crayfish is spiced with Cajun seasoning, alongside thyme and parsley, and celery salt is an essential seasoning. Etouffee can also be made with other seafood, for example prawns are often used. The word etouffee means ‘smothered’, referring to how the rice is smothered with the sauce.
F – Fried Rice. There can be few people who don’t enjoy fried rice, and every cuisine where rice is a staple involves a version (or often several). It is a wonderful way to use up any leftover rice, adding whatever you have handy in the fridge. It can be an accompaniment or a meal in itself, and is one of the most common streetfoods in places such as China, India and southeast Asia. Other cuisines have absorbed fried rice too, and it is very popular in Latin and South America. It is usually seasoned with soy sauce, and can be spiced in many ways depending on the region where you are eating it. We have enjoyed fried rice in countries as varied as Egypt, Britain, Sri Lanka and Singapore, proving that it must be one of the most popular dishes of all.
G – Galinhada. Brazil’s contribution to the internationally popular chicken and rice combo, Galinhada is a stew of the pair traditionally served at festivals and other special occasions. It is one of those dishes that is usually made at home, so every family has their own ‘secret’ recipe handed down through the generations. Spice wise it uses the common South American spices such as achiote and cumin, the achiote providing a unique flavour and a lovely golden colour.
H- Hainan Chicken Rice. A simple dish of chicken and rice, originating from the island of Hainan in China’s deep south, that has become a staple in China and southeast Asia, to the extent that it is considered one of Singapore’s national dishes. Chicken is gently poached in water with spices including ginger, garlic, cinnamon and star anise, and then the rice is cooked in the resulting stock, so it absorbs all the flavour of the chicken and seasonings. The meal is completed by pickled vegetables and chilli sauce, and is a popular meal at any time of day.
I – Ic Pilav. This is a Turkish way of preparing rice, similar to the popular pilau rice. It is cooked with onions, tomatoes, currants, mint and pine nuts, and spiced with allspice and cinnamon, and sometimes either Aleppo or Urfa pepper. Traditionally it is served alongside grilled or roasted meat, but it can also be used as a stuffing – it works very well in Gemista, the famous stuffed vegetable dish common in both Turkey and Greece.
J – Jambalaya. Jambalaya is the paella, the biriani, the special fried rice, of the American Deep South. A deliciously spicy rice dish filled with chicken, prawns and spicy sausage, we feel this is one of the most satisfying one-pot meals known to man! This is maybe because it involves plenty of spices, usually being fortified with Cajun seasoning which includes celery salt, paprika, chilli and thyme on top of garlic, Tabasco and Worcester sauces.
K – Kedgeree. This delicious rice dish has its origins in the days of the Raj, when it was an essential part of the colonial breakfast buffet. It is a simple dish, the flavour of smoked fish combining with the creaminess of rice and the spices used to make something which seems greater than the sum of its parts. It is also a great example of how food evolves; in past times kedgeree was a simple mix of rice and lentils, which was tweaked to appeal to European tastes and has become as much a British dish as an Indian one.
L – Loco Moco. A real example of naturally occurring fusion food, this is Hawaii’s most popular comfort food. In its most popular version, it consists of a base of sticky rice topped with a hamburger, a fried egg and a thick, rich gravy. However it can include anything from Spam to oysters, truly one of those dishes where anything goes! The gravy is usually spiced fairly neutrally, just using salt and pepper, but we’d add a bit of our Cajun or Caribbean seasoning blends to add a bit of local interest.
M – Makizushi. Meaning rolled sushi, this is probably the most famous style of sushi. It consists of a sheet of nori (dried seaweed), topped with vinegared rice and then fish, teriyaki chicken or vegetables, then rolled and sliced into bite size pieces. A great example of this style of sushi is the California roll and its relatives, one of the most popular sushi delicacies worldwide. The rolls can be seasoned with gomashio, furikake or shichimi togarishi, the three classic Japanese spice blends.
N – Nasi Goreng. This style of fried rice comes from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and it is a staple meal in all three countries. It is usually spicy, livened up with shallots, garlic, ginger and chilli, and can contain meat, chicken or seafood (sometimes a combination of all three). Traditionally it is served with an omelette or fried egg draped over the top, although sometimes the egg is just thrown into the mix in the same way as with a classic Chinese egg fried rice. Spice Mountain’s Nasi Goreng vegetable mix (our spice of the week for this feature) is the perfect place to start if you are making this at home.
O – Oyakodon. This is one of Japan’s greatest comfort foods, much loved by children and adults alike. It consists of a rice base, topped with chicken and egg, seasoned with the Japanese staples miso and seaweed flakes for a comforting umami flavour. The name literally translates as ‘parent and child bowl’, due to the chicken and eggs being used in the same dish. It is quick and easy, perfect for lunch or a light supper, and is a really authentic taste of Japan.
P – Pudding. Rice pudding is a common dessert in any cuisine which involves rice, and it is usually made with milk. Flavourings depend on which region the recipe comes from; a Middle Eastern pudding will often include rose or orange blossom water alongside spices such as caraway and cinnamon (also date or pomegranate syrup is used as a topping), Indian versions will feature green cardamom pods and sometimes ginger. In southeast Asia coconut milk is used rather than dairy. Many recipes include vanilla pods, and in a classic English rice pudding nutmeg provides its unique flavour.
Q – Qingdao, the modern spelling of Tsingtao. Tsingtao is China’s most well-known beer, brewed in the city of the same name in northern China. It earns its place in this list for two reasons; it is brewed with rice, and it is also the perfect accompaniment to any Chinese meal, due to its clean and refreshing flavour.
R – Risotto. One of the jewels in the crown of Italian cooking, risotto relies on its method of cooking for its creamy goodness. This involves adding water or stock a little at a time, letting the rice absorb the liquid before adding more. Added ingredients can be anything you like really, from the classic simplicity of risotto Milanese (with saffron) to more complex affairs involving squid and its ink (this is a black risotto) or various mushrooms. An interesting variation is risi e bisi (rice and peas) from the Veneto region, which is more soupy than a regular risotto and simply flavoured with peas and pancetta. Our Gourmet Risotto blend is suitable for any risotto.
S – Sushi. Whatever the type or style of sushi we are talking about, this Japanese speciality relies on rice as its key ingredient. The rice is seasoned with vinegar (the term sushi literally means ‘sour-tasting’), and always used cold. We could write a book on the many different ways sushi can be prepared, and what other ingredients are involved, but it usually includes fish, and some of the most popular is the dish where rolls are made with nori (seaweed leaves), rice and often salmon. Furikake and gomashio blends are often involved, along with condiments such as wasabi.
T – Tahdig. This is a traditional Persian dish, rice cooked with oil or ghee and spiced with turmeric and saffron for a touch of colour and flavour. It is cooked so that the rice at the bottom of the pot goes crispy while the layers above it are steamed, and traditionally it is turned out of the pot like a cake, so the crispy yellow layer is at the top. It can be eaten alone, but is usually served as a side dish to a main meal.
U – Uzbek Plov. One of the biryani-esque dishes popular all over Asia, plov is the national dish of Uzbekistan and very important to the nation’s tradition and history. It is prepared in a similar method to biryani, sauteeing carrots, onions and meat as a base on which rice is layered and then simmered until cooked. The meat used is usually mutton, but traditionally was often horse, and spices used include cumin seed, lots of garlic and sometimes chilli.
V – Valencia. Spanish city which is considered to be the home of a true paella. There are of course many different recipes for paella, but purists insist that the Valencian recipe is the original. Rice is a staple crop in the Valencia region and the paella includes equally local ingredients in rabbit, snails, runner beans and artichokes – definitely no chorizo in this one! It does however rely on the same spices as most other paella – the classic duo of saffron and smoked paprika.
W – West Africa, the home of Jollof rice. This is so tasty, flavoured with tomato and Selim Pepper then given a lovely warm heat with a touch of Scotch Bonnet chilli. It is a mainstay of any special occasion in Nigeria and the surrounding countries, served as an accompaniment or especially as part of a buffet. You can give Jollof rice the Spice Mountain touch with the addition of our Ethiopian Berbere spice blend, which although not strictly speaking West African, contains so many flavours which can only improve what is already a very tasty dish indeed!
X – Xoi ngu sac. A wonderfully colourful Vietnamese speciality, this involves rice cooked in five different colours which reflect the elements – red for fire, green for wood, yellow for earth, black for water, and white for metal. Glutinous rice is used and dyed with natural colouring from forest leaves, fruits and vegetables, then the rice is steamed. This kaleidoscopic dish is a great example of how important rice is to the culture and diet of those countries where it is a staple crop.
Y – Yellow. Rice comes in many colours, but probably the most widespread is yellow rice, coloured with turmeric and/or saffron, or in South America annatto. Cuisines all over the world feature yellow rice, from the Spanish paella to the Malaysian nasi kuning. It can sometimes feature sweet ingredients such as raisins or sugar, for instance in South Africa’s Cape Malay yellow rice.
Z – Zereshk Polo. Polo is a classic Iranian rice dish which usually involves chicken and herbs such as mint, tarragon, fenugreek and coriander, but an interesting variation is zereshk polo, which adds caramelised barberries to the mix, giving a tart and fruity taste to the dish. Rather than being a one-pot dish like most polos, this one is usually served as a side with chicken.