4 Bites: New ways with your rice cooker
From oatmeal porridge to lentils, Warren Elwin takes the rice cooker beyond the standard functions
While smaller grains (polenta, oatmeal, amaranth, quinoa) are a relatively quick cook in a rice cooker, larger whole grains (lentils, steel cut oats, barley) will benefit from soaking them first, longer or repeated cook cycles, and an extended warm cycle to help them fully cook. Have a play — the lack of direct heat is very forgiving. Here are four rice cooker recipes to get you started.
Rice cooker pilaf (photographed above)
- Sweat 1 chopped onion, celery stalk and red pepper in a little olive oil with some fresh grated ginger and crushed garlic until tender. Set aside.
- In the rice cooker, stir 1 cup rinsed brown jasmine rice, 1 Tbsp sesame oil, 2 kaffir lime (or bay) leaves, 1 small fresh red chili, 1 tsp salt, freshly ground black pepper, and 1 large cup chicken stock or water. Set to Cook and leave it to cycle over to Warm, about 15 minutes.
- Stir the rice, add the onion mixture, 1-2 sliced chorizo (smoked or cooked sausages or 1 thinly sliced chicken breast), 1 cup edamame beans (or peas), the zest and juice of a lemon, 1 more cup of stock or water and stir well. Set to Cook again, and when it switches to Warm rest for 5-10 minutes or until ready to serve. Serves 4-6 GET THE RECIPE
Make a change
The general rule for white rice is 1 part rice to 1 part water. Tender brown (or even wild) rice can also be achieved with a little trial and error, by adding more water upfront, running the Cook cycle more than once, and leaving them to rest in the Warm cycle until they’re soft and puffed.
Rice cooker polenta
- In the rice cooker, stir 1 cup fine cornmeal with 3 cups water, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 2 finely chopped spring onions, a handful of chopped oregano (marjoram or coriander), ⅓ cup grated parmesan, 1 tsp sea salt flakes and plenty of fresh black pepper.
- Set to Cook and leave it to cycle (about 15 minutes), stirring once or twice. When it switches to Warm, stir again and rest a further 5-10 minutes until ready to serve.
- Add a good pour of olive oil, stir well, and season to taste. Serve hot as a side dish, or pour into a flat container and cool until firm, cut into chips, top with grated cheese and bake until crispy. Serves 4 as a side.
Rice cooker lentils with spinach
- Soak 1 large cup of lentils (green, black or yellow) in plenty of cold water for 1 hour, then drain. Add lentils to rice cooker with 1½ cups water, 1 curry leaf branch (optional), 2 cloves garlic crushed in 1 tsp salt, a small piece of ginger, grated, small piece of fresh turmeric, grated (or ½ tsp dried turmeric), and ½ tsp garam masala.
- Set to cook and stir occasionally for approximately 20-25 minutes until the liquid has evaporated to a pea soup-like consistency and the lentils are super soft (you will need to set the Cook cycle more than once). Add a large handful of baby spinach, the zest and juice of ½ a lemon, and stir well.
- Switch to Warm (if it hasn’t done so already) and rest for at least 10 minutes, allowing the spinach to wilt into the dish. Season to taste and serve with a little chopped coriander. Serves 3-4 as a side.
Rice cooker oatmeal porridge
- In the rice cooker, stir ½ cup medium ground oatmeal with 1½ cups water. Set to Cook and bring to a boil (should take about 5 minutes). Add ½ tsp salt flakes, stir again until smooth, cover and cook a further 3-5 minutes until soft.
- Mix in 1 Tbsp brown sugar (honey or golden syrup), a sprinkling of chopped walnuts and desiccated coconut, and a good pinch of cinnamon or five spice and switch to Warm until you are ready to serve. Serve with cold milk, cream or yoghurt. Serves 2.
As a general rule mix 1 part oatmeal to 3 parts water. Change level of sweetness and flavourings to suit.