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How to cook the perfect rice

by Sarah Alcock

Cooking rice can really stump even the best cooks. We found these really handy tips and recipe from Meera Sodha; an exciting new name in easy Indian cookery, and thought we had to share them with you. No more gloopy grains!

1st rule: one handful is enough for one person

Most Indian women use one mug's worth of rice to feed four people (which is around four handfuls). These are useful points to remember if you're ever cooking without a pair of scales to hand. They also add a couple of extra handfuls for unexpected guests.

2nd rule: every portion of rice needs one and a half times the volume of water to cook in

This means that one mug of rice (which will feed four people) will require one and a half mugs of water to cook in. Easy.

3rd rule: rinse, soak, then cook

Rinsing and soaking will remove all the starch that causes grains of rice to stick together, helping to make them fluffy, and will also reduce cooking time. Soaking rice in cold water for 30 minutes is perfect, but if you don't have that long, you can soak it for 10 minutes in warm water. I start to soak my rice just before I begin to cook a main meal.

4th rule: don't throw away the flavour

While there are generally a couple of different ways to cook rice, I use the absorption method (i.e. just enough water to cook the rice), because it means you don't rob the rice of all its delicious flavour by draining it down the sink.

5th rule: keep the lid on

When cooking rice, never open the lid as it lets the steam out and that is what the rice is cooking in. Glass-lidded pans are handy so you can peep at it without lifting the lid.

6th rule: give it 10 minutes off the heat
Always leave your rice to stand after cooking for around 10 minutes with the lid on. For some inexplicable reason, this makes the grains separate and stand up straight. Fluff with a fork before serving, and chuck in a knob of butter for good measure.


Perfect fluffy rice

The Perfect Basmati Rice


  • 1 mug of basmati rice (220g)
  • 1 ½ mugs of just-boiled water (375ml)
  • 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
  • ¾ teaspoon salt

Wash the rice in a few changes of cold water, until the water runs clear. Leave it to soak in a bowl of cold water for at least 20 minutes, then drain. Put the kettle on to boil.

Put the oil into a wide-bottomed, lidded frying pan on a medium heat. Add the drained rice and the salt, stirring a couple of times, so as to coat each grain in the oil.

Pour in the boiling water and bring the rice to a fierce boil, then pop the lid on and turn the heat down to a simmer. Leave to cook for 10 minutes without lifting the lid.

If you have a clear lid, you'll see craters start to form in the rice where the water is bubbling through. Over time the number of bubbles will reduce, which is a sign that the water is being absorbed. If you're worried about there not being enough water, you can tip the pan. If the rice slides, you will know there's still water left on the bottom.

When the 10 minutes is up, turn the heat off and leave the rice to rest for a further 10 minutes. Just before serving, dot the rice with a couple of teaspoons of butter if you like, and gently fluff it up with a fork.

Meera Sodha's new book, Made In India (Penguin/Fig Tree), is out now.


Photograph by David Loftus

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