Basmati rice is a long, thin, grain with an unusual aroma and splendid nutty flavor. You may know already that I am a devoted follower of Indian chef and actress, Madhur Jaffrey. Until I encountered her BBC television show and accompanying cookbook, at age 16, I had never heard of Basmati rice. In fact, I didn’t even know that there were varieties of rice, let alone varieties of Basmati. To be honest, there is only one basmati rice, but it comes in two varieties, brown and white, depending on how much is has been milled. Like its long-grain counterpart, brown is less process and therefore contains higher amounts of fiber and falls lower on the glycemic index.
Diabetics know about GI. It determines how quickly any given food is turned into sugars by the body. They have good reason to want to control how high or low their blood sugar is at any given time. However, with all of the research being done on food and its impact on mood and the effectiveness of the brain, we could probably all do with a lesson or two on the Glycemic Index. I will save the mood altering qualities of foods for another post. Suffice it to say, we should all cut down on the amount of carbs we consume and rice, along with bread and pasta, constitute the largest portion of carb intake in our western diet. The Standard American Diet, or SAD diet, is so dominated by carbs and fats that we are developing what Dr.Daniel G. Amen terms the Dinosaur Syndrome – Big Bodies, Little Brains. Since obesity causes the brain to both reduce in size and lose efficiency, he has a point!
So, if carbs are so bad for us, shouldn’t we cut them out of our diet completely? Well, as usual, there are a variety of answers/perspectives. In a nutshell, simple carbohydrates fall high on the GI, rapidly become sugars and there is a spike in our blood sugar. This kind of energy is short-lived and the sugars are often stored by the body as fat. However, complex carbohydrates fall lower on the GI and fuel our bodies efficiently. Examples of complex carbohydrates would be:
Various Whole Grain/Whole Wheat Foods
If I am going to be careful about limiting the amount of carbohydrates I consume, then they are going to be complex and I am going to make them count! Low glycemic foods are said to have a GI of 55 or below. Medium fall between 56 and 69. Obviously High glycemic foods fall around 70 and above. Basmati rice has a GI value of 52. This does not mean that you can eat as much as you wish – everything in moderation. It does mean that you might want to consider what variety of rice you consume, in what amounts and with what frequency. Here are the raw facts for 3/4 cup cooked basmati rice:
35 grams of carbohydrates
1 gram of fat
3 grams of protein
1 gram of fiber
Thiamin, niacin, and iron
How to prepare Basmati Rice
I fell in love with Madhur Jaffrey’s method for preparing basmati rice. There is nothing original here, it comes straight out of her BBC cookbook – I believe this is the latest version of that book.
These are Jaffrey’s words. Deviate at your peril! And please note that she uses a ratio method of water to soaked rice. Her ratio of 1:1.3 may seem a little stingy – and it is, if you do not soak your rice first – however, if you follow her method precisely (and a low heat means the lowest your flame can go!), then you will have perfect rice every time… and I mean perfect and I mean every time!
“Rinse the rice in a sieve and soak it in a bowl of cold water for half an hour. This allows the boat-shaped grains to elongate elegantly. Cook unsoaked rice in boiling water and it will split.
Measure the rice by volume (rather than weight) before soaking it and then use one and one third the volume of liquid to cook the rice (so 12floz/340ml rice needs 16floz/450ml stock or water). This means that the rice will absorb all the flavour from your chosen liquid and any spices added during cooking. Season the liquid.
Bring the pan to the boil, then put the lid on. “If you aren’t confident that the lid is tight fitting, then put a sheet of foil over the top of the pan before putting the lid on.”
Boil for a couple of seconds, then reduce the heat to the minimum and cook for 20-25 minutes.
Alternatively put the covered pan in the oven set to 350F/180C/gas mark 4 (a useful trick for hobs which don’t have a very low setting).
Cook for 20 minutes, resisting the temptation to lift the lid and check.
Using either method, when the time is up the rice will be cooked and all the water absorbed. If it has stuck a bit at the bottom, then just scoop the rice from the top. Or, if the bottom is lightly browned and crunchy-chewy then brazen it out and serve it up, calling it Persian rice.”