Sour, porridge and fried rice: Yotam Ottolenghi's favorite rice recipe

Rice three ways: savory 'porridge' with spicy oil and sautéed Chinese leaves, a grain-glazed dish containing tamarind, chana dal and aromatic oils, and fried pumpkin rice with chili sour cream

I'm often asked what my most filling meal is, of which there are a lot of them, and rice is always in the top five. Yes, I feel good about the taste, but it's also the smell of the rice – a distinct home scent, one that's both sweet and savoury – that warms me from the inside out. If I'm hungry but short on time, I often make a pot of steaming rice, stir in some butter and cheese and not much else, and still savor every bite. When time is on my side, though, I'll give rice a greater treatment: from porridge to pilaf to fritters, here are three of the many ways to cook with one of my favorite ingredients.

Jook with garlic choi sum and turmeric oil (top image)

This Chinese-style rice porridge, also known as congee, makes for the most indulgent and comforting meal, and is perfect for breakfast as well as dinner. All elements can be made a day ahead; just add a little water to loosen the rice when it reheats.

  • Preparation 25 min
  • Soak 30 min+
  • Cook 30 minutes
  • Serving 4
  • 180g jasmine rice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 30 grams of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 50g store-bought crispy fried onions
  • For turmeric oil
  • 90 ml of olive oil
  • 15 grams of white sesame seeds
  • 15 grams of black sesame seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 15g fresh turmeric, peeled and finely grated (wear gloves or your fingers will get orange stains)
  • 1½ tsp chili flakes
  • 45g spring onions, trimmed and cut into thin circles
  • For the choisum
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 600g choi sum, trimmed, stems cut obliquely 1 cm long, leaves roughly torn
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • For the sweet soy sauce
  • 60ml soy sauce
  • 75 ml of maple syrup
  • 1 star anise

Place the rice in a large heatproof bowl, cover with 1.3 liters of freshly boiled water and let it steep for 30 minutes. After soaking, use your hands to gently crush the rice in the water, until it is roughly crushed.

Place the oil, garlic and ginger in a large saucepan over medium heat and fry, stirring frequently, for two to three minutes, until fragrant but colorless. Pour in the rice and water for which they were soaked, add a teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, for 25 minutes, until thick and glossy, then turn off the heat and set aside for five minutes.

Meanwhile, make turmeric oil. Place the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, add all the sesame seeds and cook for two to three minutes, until the white sesame seeds are golden. Stir in the garlic and turmeric, cook, stirring frequently, for 30 seconds, then stir in the chili flakes, the scallions, one-eighth teaspoon of good salt and pepper, and turn off the heat.

To make the choi sum, set a large saute pan over high heat. Once smoking, add the olive oil and choi sum sticks, and cook, stirring frequently, for a minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat and reduce the heat to medium. Stir the garlic into the pan, reheat and cook briefly, until fragrant. Add the torn choi sum leaves until slightly wilted, then place in a bowl.

For the soy sauce, return the saute pan to medium-high heat, add the soy, maple syrup, star anise and 60ml water and cook for two to three minutes, until bubbly. Turn off the heat, remove and discard the star anise, then set aside.

Divide the rice porridge among the four bowls. Arrange some choi sum on top and drizzle a tablespoon of the sweet soy sauce over each serving. Spoon two tablespoons of turmeric oil into each bowl, and sprinkle on a teaspoon of fried shallots. Serve hot with the remaining fried onions, oil and sweet soybeans on the side.

Sour rice with chana dal and aromatic oil

This tangy rice makes a great side dish. It's great with grilled vegetables, lamb and oily fish like mackerel and sardines. To make it even quicker, use cooked rice and chana dal.

  • Preparation 20 min
  • Cook 1 hour
  • Presents 6
  • 150g chana dal, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes (or 150g ready-to-cook chana dal)
  • Fine sea salt
  • 200g basmati rice, wash and soak in cold water for 30 minutes, then drain (or 520g ready-to-cook basmati rice)
  • 3 onions (540g), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2½ tbsp olive oil
  • 130g tamarind
  • For aromatic oils
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 7 stalks of curry leaves, picked, to get 5g of leaves
  • 2½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp chili flakes

First, drain the chana dal, put it in a medium saucepan and cover it with plenty of cold salted water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cook for 30-40 minutes, until tender (removing any residue that rises to the surface). Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, place the drained rice in a saucepan with 330ml of cold water and a quarter teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover, reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside, still covered, for 10-15 minutes. Place the rice on a large tray, spread it evenly and let it dry for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the onion, two tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon of salt in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook, stirring, for 20-25 minutes, until golden and caramelized. Transfer to a small bowl lined with kitchen paper and set aside.

For the aromatic oil, place the oil in a small skillet over medium heat and, once hot, add the curry leaves and fry for a minute or two, until they are dark green and translucent. Add the mustard seeds, chili flakes and a pinch of salt, cook for another 30 seconds, then remove from heat.

Next, put a saute pan over medium-high heat with the remaining teaspoon and a half of olive oil and tamarind paste. Cook for two to three minutes, until thickened and glossy, then turn up the heat and stir the rice quickly, making sure to coat it well. Add the chana dal, stir until smooth, then turn off the heat.

To assemble, spoon a third of the rice onto a large lipped plate. Sprinkle over a third of the onion and a third of the aromatic oil, then repeat the layers until they are all used up. Serve warm.

Fried pumpkin rice with chili sour cream

These crispy fritters are a brilliant way to use up leftover rice. Make your own using roasted root vegetables, cheese, and other spices.

  • Preparation 20 min
  • Cook 30 minutes
  • Serves 4 as a starter
  • 220g pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 1½cm cubes
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 100 ml of olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and black pepper
  • 150g sour cream
  • 1 lime, finely grated skin, to get ¼ tsp, then juiced, to get 2 tsp
  • ½ tsp Aleppo chili
  • 180g cooked white rice (long or short grain), leftover or from a ready-to-cook packet
  • 15g coriander, leaves and soft stems finely chopped
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds, crushed in a mortar
  • 60g feta, crumbled
  • 2 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped (20g)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch

Preheat oven to 220C (fan 200C)/425F/gas 7. Place squash on a small baking sheet, add the cumin, a tablespoon of oil and half a teaspoon of salt and mix well. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden and cooked through, then remove and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, lime zest and juice, aleppo chile and a quarter teaspoon of salt and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the rice, fresh coriander and coriander seeds, feta, chives, a quarter teaspoon salt and ground pepper and stir in the cooled squash, egg and cornstarch.

Line a large plate with absorbent kitchen paper. Place the remaining 85ml of oil in a large skillet over high heat. Once the oil is hot, use a tablespoon to measure out a ladleful (approx. 60g) of the rice mixture, carefully dip it into the oil and press very gently so it forms a disc. Repeat with three more spoonfuls of the rice mixture and, using four fritters at a time, allow to fry undisturbed for three and a half minutes, until the base is golden. Flip the fry (use a spatula in one hand and a spoon in the other to help you) and cook on the other side, again undisturbed, for three to three and a half minutes, until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a lined plate and repeat with the remaining mixture, to make eight fritters.

Transfer to a serving plate and serve warm with sour cream sauce on the side.

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