Minute Rice Cooking Tips from Chef John Higgins

While I was tuned into the webcast with Chef John Higgins, Director of Toronto-based George Brown Chef SchoolCanada’s leading chef school and one of the top culinary schools in North America, I made notes on some of his rice cooking tips – tips that work equally well for cooking Minute Rice 

 In no particular order here are his rice cooking tips. Granted some of them are things you already do but some may surprise you.

First one, Chef Higgins suggested was when boiling rice, use chicken broth, beef broth or vegetable stock in place of the water. This will add flavour to the rice itself and the dishes you prepare from the cooked rice.

Cook rice in coconut milk for a mildly sweet flavoured rice which pairs well with curry dishes and other spicy recipes. Coconut flavoured rice with fresh slices of mango or your kids’ favourite fruit can make a fun, healthy dessert option. 

 Add spices to the rice’s cooking liquid for an aromatic and flavourful base to your dish. Star Anise, cilantro and turmeric are good choices, with bold, robust flavours. Further to this tip, he suggested that when cooking rice you can introduce the flavours of your dish early on. For maximum flavour, add the herbs or spices your recipe calls for into the rice’s cooking water.

This one surprised me; he suggested that people can enhance their rice dishes by adding frozen vegetables. Rather than cooking the vegetables separately, though, condense your cooking time by adding them to boiling water before you begin cooking the rice. Using pre-cut, frozen vegetables is more convenient than cutting fresh vegetables (while still being nutritious), especially when you are pressed for time.

The next tip was one that I often do – add dried fruit – such as craisins, raisins, dried blueberries and currents – to the cooking water to draw out the sweet fruit flavours which will infuse your rice with a savoury taste the whole family will enjoy.

Here is one most Canadians have probably not tried – rice for breakfast. Instant rice in particular is quick and easy, making it a convenient and nutritious family option. Add almond or soy milk, or your kids’ favourite flavoured milk, as well as dried fruits or nuts for a complete, oatmeal-like breakfast dish which can be served hot or cold. Prepare the rice the night before to save time in the morning.

Or what about cooking your rice with your favourite flavour of tea? Steep a pot of tea and use the liquid to cook your rice instead of using plain water. For those less adventurous, start with a more simple flavour such as Earl Grey, English Breakfast or Chamomile tea. For an economical option, use the tea bag left over from your morning cup of tea.

For a zesty citrus spin on your rice dish, grate lemon, lime or orange zest into the rice’s cooking water as it’s boiling. Be sure to thoroughly wash your fruit with warm, soapy water before grating the zest into the water. For a more gourmet taste sensation, try a combination of citrus fruits in one rice dish.

And while the purists in the audience probably were shuddering aghast at this suggestion, Chef Higgins did say that using Minute Rice is an excellent starting point for making risotto. Risotto is a wonderful meal or side dish option enjoyed by all ages, but it takes time to make. Using instant rice in a risotto dish can cut in half the time it takes to make traditional risotto.

His final words of advice during the webcast were to follow a recipe exactly the first time you make it and then use the recipe as a sort of road map or guide to a destination. The tips he described above were ideas that can add another dimension to our cooking. Sure, we are already doing some of them but it is fun to see what others are doing. Enjoy.