The wide variety of grains, pasta, and legumes now available from all over the world presents many choices for healthy meals that are easy to prepare. They form the basis of substantial main dishes and delicious side dishes.
Grains are usually boiled or steamed, either risottos. Whole grains take longer to cook than on their own or combined with a variety of processed white grains, but most varieties of other ingredients in dishes such as pilafs or grain will cook within about 30 minutes.
Rinsing basmati rice: Basmati rice needs to be rinsed thoroughly to keep the grains separate. Place it in a bowl of cold water, and swirl the rice around by hand. Drain, and repeat until the water is clear.
Cooling Cooked Rice
Using a wooden spoon: To cool cooked rice quickly for use in salads, drain through a sieve and place over a bowl. Prod the rice at intervals with a wooden spoon handle to release the steam and heat.
Steaming Couscous: Lining a colander
If you do not have a couscous steamer, line a metal sieve with a piece of cheesecloth, and place it over a pan of boiling water. Pour the couscous into the sieve and cover. Steam until tender.
Cooking Perfect Rice
• Presoaking rice: Reduce the cooking time of rice and other grains by soaking them first in cold water for 30 minutes.
• Cooking on low heat: When cooking glutinous rice, use a large pan, and simmer on the lowest heat possible. Keep the lid on during cooking, and let stand for 10 minutes after draining.
• Using a microwave: Place 1 cup (250 g) white rice in a large bowl with 2 cups (450 ml) boiling water. Cook on High for nine minutes. Cook brown rice for about 15-20 minutes.
• Forking rice: Fluff up cooked rice by separating the grains with a fork before serving.
• Cooking in stock: Add extra flavor to plainly boiled grains by cooking them in rich meat, chicken, or vegetable stock rather than water.
• Coloring rice: If you do not have saffron for tinting rice and risottos, stir in a pinch of turmeric after cooking.
• Using coconut milk: Simmer long-grain rice in coconut milk to accompany Asian dishes. Use about 1V cups (400 ml) coconut milk to V-i cup (200 g) rice, and cook until the liquid is absorbed. Using pesto Replace the butter or olive oil in cooked polenta with a roughly equal quantity of pesto sauce.
Making a stomach settler: As a cure for an upset stomach, boil white rice without having rinsed it first, then strain off die starchy cooking liquid. Allow the liquid to cool, then give it to the patient to drink.
There are only a few simple rules to follow when cooking fresh or dried pasta. Cook it lightly, in plenty of rapidly boiling water, until it is al dente – which translates literally as “to the tooth.” This means the pasta is tender to the bite, but still offers a slight resistance in the center.
Cooking Long Pasta
Feeding into a pan: To fit long spaghetti into a small pan of boiling water, hold it in a bunch, and put one end into the water. As the ends of the pieces soften, bend the pasta slightly, and push in the rest gradually.
Cooking Stuffed Pasta
Using a skimmer: To lift cooked, filled pasta such as ravioli out of the water without damaging or bursting it, use a flat, metal skimmer or a flat, slotted, draining spoon. Toss in oil or sauce to prevent sticking.
To add color and flavor when making pasta dough, mix in additional ingredients
• Tomato: Add 2 small spoons (10 ml) of tomato paste per egg 10 the beaten eggs and stir well.
• Spinach Thaw: Half cup (50 g) frozen, chopped spinach per egg. Squeeze well before adding to the beaten eggs.
• Saffron: For rich, golden pasta, add a pinch of ground saffron to the flour.
• Beets: Stir 1 tablespoon (15 ml) cooked, pureed beet per egg to the pasta dough.
Peas, beans, and lentils are a valuable source of protein and are versatile enough to be used in all kinds of dishes, including casseroles,
pâtés, dais, and salads. Dried beans take some time to cook, but the cooking is simple, and they are less expensive than canned varieties.
Most legumes need to be soaked in cold water for at least 4-8 hours. Alternatively, soak in boiling water for about one hour. The following cooking times are a rough guide only; recommended times may vary from one type to another, so check carefully.
Split lentils: 15-20 minutes. 0 Whole lentils, aduki beans, lining beans, split peas: 25-30 minutes.
• Black-eyed peas, Great Northern beans, lima beans, peas: 45 minutes.
• Black beans, white kidney beans, red kidney beans: about one hour.
• Pinto beans, chickpeas:
1’/ hours. O Butter beans, fava beans: 1 Vi hours.
• Seasoning: Season beans toward the end of their cooking time, since salt can prevent them from softening.
• Cooling: If you are cooking beans to serve cold, cool them in their cooking water rather than drying in a colander. This stops their skins from splitting.
• Pressure cooking: If you are using a pressure cooker, cook beans on High for a third of their normal cooking time.
Boil dried, soaked beans vigorously for 10 minutes, then drain and start again with fresh water. This process reduces the “gassiness” associated with eating beans. Simmer gently until the beans are tender.
Making a dip Mash cooked, drained butter beans well with a fork. Add crushed garlic, chilli paste, and olive oil to make a rich, spicy dip. Serve with vegetable sticks.
Making Chickpea Nibbles
Mix cooked or drained canned chickpeas with seasoned whole¬wheat flour and crushed garlic. Fry in a little butter and oil over high heat until crisp and golden. Serve with cocktails.