Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Brown rice shakes off reputation as 1970s artefact.

Like barley, brown rice used to have a reputation.

Barley was once regarded as the ingredient grandmothers added to soups and lamb stews to fortify growing children. Then someone on television turned barley into a risotto, and packets of McKenzie's Pearl Barley starting flying off the lower supermarket shelves, where they had lain untouched for decades next to McKenzie's Soup Mix, McKenzie's Yellow Split Peas, McKenzie's Dessicated Coconut and, of course, McKenzie's Bi-Carb Soda. Barley was now a foodie's food.

Brown rice was once similarly unloved. It was like barley for 1970s hippies, having been associated with that demographic together with several types of smoke and a kind of footwear. Being brown was kind of appropriate because everything in the 1970s was brown: curtains, Datsun 120Ys, carpet, dinner sets, corduroy, record covers, you name it. Even the timber bowls that brown rice salad was typically served in were brown. Well, of course.

And the rice salads served at student household parties generally lay untouched, and the grains dried out and went hard, and were inedible, and people stubbed their 'cigarettes' in it, and the reputation of brown rice was caught in a vicious cycle. And someone had to clean up the next morning, although in such households, it was usually next afternoon, if not evening. Parkville memories come flooding back, and the picture is not pretty; and the stove is covered in burnt, dried substances that were once food.

But brown rice was much more than salad at student parties. It is robust enough to carry ingredients on its back without turning to mush, which white rice will do if you're not careful. It has an agreeable texture and a flavour that is distinct but which will not dominate its fellow ingredients, as evidenced by the following recipe.

Brown rice biryani with a chilli kick.

I had a few cups of cold brown rice left over. (Left over from what? Er, a brown rice salad ...)

I warmed the rice through in some peanut oil, then folded through two teaspoons of coriander powder, one teaspoon each of turmeric and chilli powder, one scored clove of garlic, and half a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. The aroma that arose from the warming spicy rice at this point was so good I could have eaten the lot from the pan right there. Stop!

I cut four spring onions into short rounds and tossed them in, along with half a cup of capsicum cut into small dice, and a cup of peas. Peas work superbly with rice dishes, giving a satisfying pop! as your teeth bite into a hidden one.

If the rice was moist enough to begin with, you can warm it through without adding any fluid. Otherwise add water a little at a time.

Now for the meat: a few strips of chargrilled fillet cut into cubes and folded through the rice. This was also left over, a remnant of the children's dinner. Don't be too proud to eat your children's leftovers; the whole world has gone mad on recycling so why not eat scraps? Apart from that fillet is expensive, and we no longer have a dog anyway. Three rationalisations in one paragraph. The whole point of biryani was to use up cooked meat and rice with any available vegetables and spices.

Meanwhile, I boiled two eggs until just set, peeled them and set them aside.

When the whole thing had warmed through (letting the capsicum and spring onion retain their crunch) I made piles of hot biryani in two deep bowls, made craters in the top of each pile, nested an egg in each, and sprinkled fresh chopped coriander over the top.

I served it with mango chutney or sweet chilli sauce, and papadums.


Melbourne Girl said...

I was laughing so hard reading this that I was asked what the fuss was I read it to MONT

He laughed to.

All this talk of brown woven wooden bowls of uneaten food, dinner sets and cords, not to mention one of my favs - the conti cardigan - triggers a lot of memories...some of which should possibly be left in the 70's KH

Wonderful stuff as usual

kitchen hand said...

Cardigans! They were military uniforms for different social subgroups. Sharpies wore the short cropped ones and I think Lobby Loyde used to wear a conti on stage.

Now you've opened up a whole new subject I'd nearly forgotten.

Melbourne Girl said...

Ahh YES! Lobby Loyde.
I saw him at Kew Club one night...I don't remember what he was wearing but I do remember my ears were ringing for a couple of days