The origin of English Pudding Rice:
What Delia Smith, British cookery goddess and soccer fan, has to say about Rice.
Long-grain and basmati rice
Long-grain rice is precisely that - and the longer and thinner the grain is, the better the quality. So the grains should be mega-slim, with needle-sharp points at each end: this is the type of rice needed for separate, fluffy grains, and the best variety is called basmati. This is more expensive than others, but since cooking is about flavour, it is the one to buy, as it has a far superior taste. Although you will see dozens of varieties of long-grain rice, I believe it's well worth paying that little bit extra for basmati. Whether you are using the brown or the white, it's quite certainly the best.
Medium- and short-grain rice
Here the grains are not long and thin, but rounder and plumper. Italian risotto rice, sometimes called arborio rice, is superb, or for the finest-quality risotto rice of all, look for the names carnaroli or vialone nano. In creamy, almost soupy risottos the rice is stirred, which releases some of the starch, and it is this that creates the lovely, smooth, creamy mass. The same kind of plump grain is used in Spain, and one of the finest varieties comes from the Valencia region and is called calasparra, which is used to make paella, though here the grains are not stirred, so they remain firm and distinct but with a moist, creamy edge.
In Japan there are several varieties of short-grain rice, ranging from the mildly sticky to the very sticky rice used to make sushi (it makes absolute sense that in the countries where chopsticks are used, rice with a stickier, more clinging consistency is far more manageable). This is sometimes called 'glutinous' rice, but as rice does not contain any gluten, it's a false name and I prefer to describe it as sticky rice, which is much more accurate.
In Thailand and Southeast Asia the rice grown and preferred is sometimes called jasmine or fragrant rice. The quality is very good, and though it's actually a long-grain rice and when cooked, the grains have a firm texture and a good bite, they have a faint stickiness and tend to adhere to each other. I would say in this case the rice is both fluffy and sticky, and this is how it should be.
Carmargue red rice
Though other red rices are grown in America, this one, from France, is of superior quality. It is an unmilled short-grain rice with a brownish-red colour, and I would describe its character as earthy and gutsy, with a firm, slightly chewy texture and a nutty flavour. It is excellent in salads and combined with other strong flavours. Because it is a short-grain rice it is very slightly sticky when cooked and not meant to be separate and fluffy. Here's a red rice recipe.
Black rice (well, it's reddish black) is an Asian rice used for sweet dishes and puddings and turns purple when cooked. It's probably about to become as fashionable here as it is in Australia, where practically every smart restaurant has a special pudding made with cooked black rice dressed with a mixture of palm sugar, coconut milk and lime. If you manage to get some, follow the instructions on the packet, which vary.
This is not actually a rice grain at all but the seed of a special type of grass grown in the swamps of North America. However, it's called rice, so I've put it on my list because it is cooked and served in exactly the same way, but needs about 50 minutes. The seeds are very long and most attractive, with a shiny ebony colour, and have a subtle, smoky, nutty flavour. It's good in salads and with gutsy foods with strong flavours. When cooked, the seeds tend to burst and split slightly, but this is quite normal and some some failure in the cooking - though, as with rice grains, it's important not to overcook them.
There are, of course, a million and one types of rice, and the list I've given you has what I believe to be the best in quality. The also-rans, in a way, perpetuate the myth that cooking rice is difficult, and people usually buy them out of fear. Pre-cooked or par-boiled rice is actually cooked before milling: this means the grains are tougher so require more water and much longer cooking time. This is to help it stay more separate, but in my opinion there is a loss of flavour and I would never choose it. Quick-cook or easy-cook rice has been partially cooked after milling and then dried, so all it has to do is reabsorb water. It is quicker to cook, only 8-10 minutes instead of 12-15, but the loss of character and flavour puts this in the 'sliced white' category, ie dull and pappy.
Since I was a small child - a long time ago - we have always had in Britain a variety of short-grain rice called pudding rice; this is the type used the world over in sweet dishes and is best of all, in my opinion, for good Old-Fashioned Rice Pudding. It is very sticky when cooked and, simmered in milk, becomes deliciously soft and creamy.
But the best our group can manage on pudding
rice's origins is:
A short grained rice used for puddings and sweets. Typically originating from Italy. The grains are tubby and chalky in appearance and cling together on cooking. Used mainly to make traditional rice puddings.
Tilda confirm that their pudding rice comes from Italy, which makes me think it is just low-grade risotto rice, yet it is also referred to as Carolina rice I think this is an old name.
UC Davis has a
large web site:
We didn't get to read it all, but here's another rice selection:
With regard to the pre-cooking, we did an UNdocumented survey and it appears
that cultures with more rice around generally use precooked, but those with
few other rice dishes cook everything together. Which makes sense. Ross (TA)
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