I have a BIG advice to you mothers out there: never discourage your child about cooking a certain dish! Your child, whatever age s/he may be, can react to this by not even “trying” to cook that dish for years and years. Ok, she might be also looking for excuses not to cook this or that, but still, don’t do that, it’s not nice. My mother scared the shit out of me when I wanted to cook rice the first time, so I did not even attempt for many years. Until one day, she, herself, told me; “why don’t you cook rice, it’s the easiest thing in the world!”. Come again??
It could be too dry and without flavour, it could be too moist and mushy like a porridge, the proportion of water to rice is extremely important, you should watch out all the time, aaarrhhh… Yes, all these were told me by my mother, when I just wanted to cook rice and called her to ask for the recipe, the first time. I was at the college then, around the beginning of 2000s. My roommate Didem learned how to cook rice very easily and she was perfect at it. So the chef for rice was Didem at our place.
Years later, when I was living in my second apartment in Helsinki, I told my mother how much I missed Turkish rice, because the rice I ate at school was generally very dry and let’s be honest, tasteless. It was about 6-7 months since I came here. She suddenly started talking about how easy it is to cook rice. I was listening to her and I was amazed by this sudden change in her opinion. Yet, when I told her how she discouraged me years ago, she simply said that she didn’t remember that – erm, end of story!
Truth is, cooking rice is of course extremely easy. You should be careful about the proportion of water and rice, yes, but it is not rocket science; plus, if you see that you put too little water, you can always, wait for it……add more water!! Amazing isn’t it??
Anyway, here is one version of traditional way of cooking rice in Turkey: with tomatoes. I grated 3 tomatoes for 1 cup of rice, but since tomatoes are generally like plastics here, even 3 tomatoes were not enough, I think I could easily add 1 more. The thing is, the more tomatoes you add, the better it tastes, therefore you can be truly generous. Another thing: I used olive oil as I always do, but if you want to have an even richer taste, you can use butter or a combination of both. As for the type of rice, I use long rice but go for one you like most.
Difficulty: ★☆☆ (Easy)
Serves 4 people
3-4 tomatoes, grated (I kept the skin on, but you can peel the skin and then grate)
1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil (if you want, you can add extra 1 tsp – 5 ml olive oil or even more, I just don’t like rice greasy)
1 cup / 2.4 dl rice: washed well, put in a bowl, covered with boiling water for an hour, drained and washed couple of times more (this is very important and if you don’t feel lazy and do this about 1 hour before starting to cook the rice, I assure you that you will have a great result)
1 tsp / 5 ml salt
1 cup / 2.4 dl hot water (hot from tap, not boiling)
1. Put grated tomatoes in a shallow but large pan (if you have.. if you don’t, then it’s perfectly fine to cook rice in normal pan, just check how much it cooks often). Stir a bit, cover with a lid and let it cook, in medium heat, for about 5 minutes.
2. Add oil (or butter if you prefer) and stir about a minute.
3. Add rice and salt, and stir for a while, about 2-3 minutes.
4. Add water, just stir half a minute to make sure that all rice is evenly covered with water.
5. Put the lid on, decrease the heat to lowest and let the rice cook, until all water is absorbed by rice. It really depends on the rice so I won’t give you any exact time for that. Keep checking frequently. Once the water is absorbed, check that is cooked (take a mini fork of it). If it is not cooked yet, but there is no water left, then you can add up to half a cup / 1.2 dl hot water. I do this gradually if I need to. Once you are sure that rice is cooked, take it out of the heat, leave it covered with lid, for about 30 minutes, before you serve. Rice with tomato can be a side dish or a main dish in Turkish cuisine. Afiyet olsun! (meaning Bon Appetite in Turkish)