One of my favourite smells in the world is rice being cooked. I can’t explain why I love it so much, but I find it comforting, a smell which *always* makes me hungry and excited for dinner. It’s safe to say that because of this we eat a lot of rice! Whether it’s a meal we’ve batch-cooked and frozen for busy evenings (this Vegan Curry is perfect), or our bog-standard Stir-Fry, we love it.
But rice can be SO much more than just a side for a curry. Rather than being there to soak up sauce you can turn rice into the main event of a meal, and that’s just what VeeTee challenged me to do here. Three different meals, each showcasing a different type of rice in their new rice pots. Each designed to be easy, tasty and made on a budget. Perfect for students, those who have limited time in the evenings, or those with titchy kitchens (hey most Londoners!).
The first up is one of my favourites, and something we eat quite often. Mexican flavours are so bold and fresh, but it can also be a wonderfully comforting meal with the black beans and a few cheeky tortilla chips! In the photos here we’ve got for ‘a bit of everything’ with some refried beans, spicy chicken, salad and pink pickled onions on a bed of super-green rice. And really, the rice is just the star of the show. Zingy and full of flavour, it’s the perfect base for taco bowl!
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 Thai Jasmine Rice Pots
- 3 generous handfuls of spinach
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 bunch coriander, stalks and leaves
- 1 can black beans, drained (but reserve the water!)
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 4 chicken thighs, or 2 chicken breasts if you prefer (this is also fab with pork steaks or even thin frying steaks, just adjust the cooking time)
- 1 tsp chipotle paste
- Toppings – cheese, pink pickled onions, tortilla chips, avo, soured cream, salad…
First up, make the rice. Pop 1tbsp olive oil, and the lime juice, spinach, coriander, half the onion and one of the garlic cloves into a small blender or mini-chopper. Blitz until you have a rough puree, add some salt and pepper, then transfer to small baking dish. Break in the rice and stir until evenly coated (and the rice has separated into grains) – I find it easier to use my hands for this. Cover tightly with tin-foil and pop into an oven at 120C until everything is ready. It wants at least 20 minutes, but can sit for up to an hour like this.
Then make the refried beans. I’ve posted my long recipe for these before, but here’s the quick way! Fry the rest of the onion and garlic in another tbsp of oil until soft, then pop into a blender (wiped down from the green puree, but no need to give it a full wash) with 2/3 of the black beans and some of the reserved water from the can. Blitz until smooth, then pop back into the frying pan with the rest of the beans and the cumin. Season well, and continue to fry over a low heat, stirring often, for around ten or so minutes whilst you prep the chicken or meat (or keep it veggie, roasted cauliflower works well here too!).
For the chicken, I simply chopped it into strips, fried the chipotle paste in the remaining oil, then added the chicken and fried over a high heat until cooked through. Super simple, but really tasty!
To serve, just assemble your bowls with the rice, beans and chicken, add your toppings and enjoy! The seasoned green rice really makes this dish into something special – it’s fresh and full of flavour, and great for sneaking some extra iron into your diet. It’s also fab used as a burrito stuffing…
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know my all-time favourite comfort food is a risotto. I just love it, and I would eat one every night if I could. I do love the process of making one, and find stirring SO therapeutic but sometimes you want the comfort without the faff. Enter my cheats risotto!
I’ve paired butternut squash here with the wholegrain rice, as I think the nuttier flavour of the rice really cuts through the sweetness of the squash. It’s truly delicious!
- 2 handfuls of frozen butternut squash
- 1 pinch dried thyme and/or sage
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 celery stick, finely chopped (optional, but I seem to always have some going limp in my fridge!)
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 Wholegrain Brown Rice Pot
- Splash of milk
- A good handful (or two!) of Parmesan cheese
- Salad, to serve
Pop the squash in the oven as per pack instructions (usually around 25 minutes). With around 10 minutes to go, fry the onion and celery in the oil with the dried herb(s) until soft, adding in the garlic towards the blend. Pop the squash into a small blender or mini chopped with a splash of milk, then blend until smooth. You could keep some chunks back too for some texture if you like.
Add the rice to the frying pan with the onion mix and fry for a minute or so, breaking up with a spoon. Add the squash puree and stir well, thinning with a little extra milk if needed. Add in most of the cheese, season well with pepper, then serve with salad and some extra cheese. Perfect for a quick, virtually hands-free cosy supper!
I’m fairly sure Biryani, or ‘Curried Rice’ was one of the first things I learnt to cook for myself, when I was a pre-teen in the school holidays fed up of cheese sandwiches! Whilst this is a step-up in terms of flavour from that recipe (and probably presentation too!) it’s certainly just as easy. Best of all it only involves one pan so there’s minimal washing up!
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 pepper, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 2 teaspoons medium curry powder – or you could use a blend of spices such as ground coriander, garam masala, cardamom, mustard seeds etc
- 2-4 chicken thighs, chopped into small cubes (depending on how hungry you are!) – this would also work well with leftover roast lamb, or even prawns with an adjusted cooking time. Or add some chickpeas or cauliflower and keep it veggie!
- 2 Basmati Rice Pots
- 3 good handfuls of spinach, or a few cubes of frozen spinach
- A handful of coriander for garnishing, if liked
Simply fry the onion in the onion until soft, then add the pepper, garlic and curry powder or spices. Fry until fragrant, then stir in the chicken and continue frying until cooked. Stir in the rice with a small splash of boiling water, then add the spinach. Heat until hot, then serve sprinkled with some fresh coriander. Alternatively, if your frying pan is oven-proof, loosely cover with foil and bake for around 15 minutes at 200C to get a slightly more authentic texture.
And that’s it! Three quick and easy rice dishes that are firmly in our meal rotation. The Biryani in particular is so quick, and you could add all sorts of extra veggie in there. In fact I think it might have to be tonight’s dinner…
*This post is in collaboration with VeeTee, however as always all opinions are my own. I only ever work with brands I know, love and would buy myself!
Are you a rice fan? What’s your favourite rice recipe?