Sweet rice

Rice is nice
As most of the country prepares for an extended period of long weekend and school holiday heaven, we’ve been hard at work. Our range is expanding all the time, and we’re offering a huge range of hidden gems. There are 15 different kinds of rice, including some real bargains that beat most non-organic supermarket rice for price, taste and nutritional value.

15 kinds of rice? Insane, there’s the fluffy white kind that’s perfect every time – what else does one need?

Rice is the second-most grown grain in the world, after maize. After being harvested, the outer husk is removed, leaving what’s known as brown rice. The rice can be further milled, removing the rest of the husk, and the germ, leaving “white rice”. Removing the germ takes away much of the nutritional value, but makes it softer and easier to cook.

In some cases, nutrients are artificially added back to the rice at this point to replace what’s been stripped away. And, just to further muddy the waters, some commercial rices have ingredients such as talc powder added to make them look shiny and polished.

But there’s much more than just “white” or “brown” rice. There are many cultivated varieties, all with subtly different characteristics. Basmati is well-known for its fragrance and flavour (the word “basmati” means “the fragrant one” in Sanskrit). Jasmine rice too has its own distinctive nutty aroma and flavour.

There’s also red rice, and black rice, both containing high mineral content, with the black rice being particularly high in iron. Wild rice is an entirely different, but related, species.

Rice is almost always cooked in plain water in the west, but there are alternatives. In India, In India, cooking it in boiling milk, sweetened with jaggery to form ‘payash’ or ‘kheer’, is a popular alternative.

Sweet things
And talking of jaggery, there are a whole range of sweeteners available too. Jaggery, or unrefined palm sugar, is a popular alternative in Indian cooking.

Of course there’s sugar – white, brown and raw. Xylitol is an alternative, used in much the same way as sugar, and also highly refined, but with a very low GI, so safe for diabetics and generally healthier for those watching their weight or their blood sugar. Stevia is equally safe for diabetics, having almost no effect on blood sugar. Stevia is derived from the green leaves of the stevia plant (atually a genus of 240 or so related plants, distant relatives of the sunflower). It’s much sweeter than sugar, with a quarter teaspoon of stevia roughly equivalent to one tablespoon of sugar. Honey might seem a return to the mainstream after last two, but there’s a general shortage of honey right now. We only have 2 (soon to be 1) of our five regular honey brands available, although we’re glad to have honey in the comb still available from Bloublommetjies biodynamic farm.

Agave is another that’ll be new to many, derived from the succulent agave plant. It’s similar in texture to honey, though slightly sweeter and runnier. While most agave comes from the US and Mexico, ours is sourced locally.

And, just to round things off, we have maple syrup, favourite for pancakes and waffles, as well.

It’s almost breakfast time, and some pancake and maple syrup sounds quite appealing after a late night.

To order, go to www.ethical.org.za

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical Co-op team