Articles and Recipes containing Cereal Grains – rice, wheat, Barley etc. from all around the world
The Versatility of Rice
As a cereal grain, rice is the most important food for most of the world’s population. It has the second-highest worldwide production, after maize (corn).
Here in Spain where we live, there are two rice-growing regions. The traditional Valencia rice, the one used for paella, is a round, medium-short grain rice. It has a marvellous capacity for absorbing the flavours, with which it cooks – chicken, pork, olive oil, seafood, vegetables. You have to take care not to overcook it, though, so it does not become sticky. But Spain today has another developing rice-growing region, in Andalucía. The variety of rice grown here is long-grain. This is the type favoured for pilaff. Grown for export to northern Europe, long-grain rice is only beginning to be used in Spanish cooking. Never for paella!
There are many types of rice, all of which are used for different purposes and in different cuisines around the world. Arborio, Brown short-grain, Brown long-grain, White short-grain, White long-grain, Black glutinous, White glutinous, Basmati, Wild rice, Jasmine rice and various blends of brown and white wild rice.
The traditional method for cultivating rice is by flooding the fields. This simple method requires a solid, well thought-out irrigation system.
In Valencia, where the Moors taught the Spanish all about irrigation systems, water travels 30 miles through canals from the reservoirs in the mountains down to the rice fields south of the City of Valencia. Rice can be grown practically anywhere, even on a steep hill or mountain. Although its parent species are native to South Asia and certain parts of Africa, centuries of trade and exportation have made it commonplace in many cultures worldwide.
Once we have grown our rice, what can we use it for?
We can eat it in many forms. ‘Rice Krispies’ for our breakfast cereal. Rice cake, using ground rice flour. We can use the different types of rice to make paella, risotto, Indian and Chinese meals and for desserts – we can make rice puddings, baked rice, soufflés, strudels, pancakes and even use it in ice cream.
The Healthy Option
Nutritionists believe that rice is more important to our health and energy than previously thought. It is high in complex carbohydrates and has virtually no salt, sugar or fat. Half a cup of cooked rice supplies about 85 calories – equivalent to one slice of bread. Brown rice is particularly good for vegetarians. It is more nutritious than white rice because it still has the bran layer intact. The bran layer is high in dietary fibre and B-group vitamins, plus important minerals including potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc. The bran layer in brown rice is a rich source of both poly-and mono-unsaturated oils and the powerful anti-oxidant Vitamin E. Rice bran oil, found in brown rice has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol levels. The bran layer is also rich in fibre, a useful laxative.
Rice is the least allergy-producing grain, making it ideal for many people with allergies or food intolerances. It is easy to digest and, because rice is gluten free, it is the major cereal grain for people with celiac disease – a sensitivity to gluten, the protein in wheat and other cereals
How to cook rice
There are four ways to cook rice. You can steam it, microwave, bake and boil it.
Absorption (Steaming) Method: Combine 1 ½ cups of rice (300g) with 3 cups (750ml) of water in a medium heavy-based saucepan and cover tightly. Bring it to the boil and then reduce the heat to its lowest setting. Cook for 10 minutes. It is important that you don’t remove the lid during the cooking time. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand, covered for a further 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.
Microwave Method: combine 1 ½ cups of rice (300g) with 3 cups (750ml) of boiling water in a microwave proof bowl. Cook, uncovered on HIGH for about 10 minutes or until the rice is just tender. Stir halfway through cooking. Cover the bowl and let it stand for 5 minutes to complete the absorption process. Fluff with a fork before serving.
Baked Method: Combine 1 ½ cups of rice (300g) with 2 ½ cups (625ml) of water in an ovenproof dish, stir well. Cover tightly with foil or a lid and bake in a moderate oven for 25 minutes or until the rice is tender. Fluff with a fork before serving.
Boiling Method: Bring 8 cups of water (2 litres) to the boil in a large saucepan and add 1 ½ cups (300g) of rice. Stir to separate the grains and boil uncovered for 12 minutes or until the rice is tender
A special rice cooker or rice steamer will provide excellent and consistent results. Any spare cooked rice can be frozen and reused simply by placing in the microwave and set to defrost.
Barley with its chewy texture and slightly nutty flavour when cooked is a major cereal grain and is a member of the grass family.
It is starchy, hence it can be prepared like grains such as couscous or rice. Barley is said to have originated in Ethiopia and Southeast Asia, and has been cultivated for more than 10,000 years.
In ancient times, it was used as food for people and animals and to make alcoholic beverages. Barley water was also used for various medicinal purposes.
Although in this region, barley is often consumed as a drink, it can also be used in soups, stews and breads.
Whole grain barley is high in fibre, rich in protein and is good for the health as it is is regarded as having numerous health benefits. Barley contains high levels of dietary fiber and selenium (a type of antioxidant). Recent studies suggest that a diet high in beta-glucan from barley helps lower blood LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Barley may also help stabilise blood glucose levels, which may benefit people with diabetes.
Sprouted barley is naturally high in maltose, a sugar that serves as the basis for malt syrup sweetener. When fermented, barley is used as an ingredient in beer and certain distilled beverages. It is the main ingredient in the making of beer and whisky. It also serves as a major animal fodder and as a component of various health foods.
In appearance, it resembles wheat berries, but it is slightly lighter in colour.
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