Once you get plain rice right, it's easy to do a whole range of rice dishes. Change the water to homemade stock or coconut milk, add a spoon of fried shallot oil or garlic oil, or even a generous dab of butter, and the plain ol' boring rice immediately becomes neither plain nor boring. There's no change in the basic steps at all, but it looks and tastes a bit more exciting than a pot of plain white rice (which I do love though). This one, I just sauteed the rice in some ghee with whole garam masala spices first, it's a brilliant side to Indian curries or and probably Arabian-style spiced stews and tagines.
Indian mothers seem to frown upon that thing, that modern rice-cooking machine, but ask any Asian mothers and they will swear by their rice cookers, and so do I. My beloved pink Toyomi rice cooker turned out fluffy, feather-light grains that may just fool the beady eyes of the Indian housewife. That said, you can easily do this over the stove-top too, in almost exactly the same steps.
Simple Spiced Rice-cooker Pilaf
1 cup basmati rice, soaked for half to 1 hour
1 onion, chopped finely
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 cup cold water (plus minus. depends on your brand/age of rice and how long you soak)
very generous pinch of unrefined sea salt
1 scant tbsp of ghee/coconut oil
1. Switch rice cooker to "cook" and let the pot heat up.
2. Add the ghee/oil and saute the whole spices for a min or so to toast.
3. Add the chopped onions to sweat, before adding the ground turmeric.
4. Add the soaked and drained rice, saute to coat in the spices, then add the water and salt, and close the lid (make sure it's still on 'cook').
5. When it clicks done, do the "close and wait, open and fluff, close and wait, open and breathe".
(i.e. When it's done, do not open for 10 min. Then open, give a fluff through with a chopstick or fork but no spoon. then close and let steam for another 5 min. Then open for a min or so to let excess moisture evaporate, take the time to breathe in the wonderful fragrance. You can then eat or let it stay warm in there for a while longer till you want to eat.)
While cooking, the fragrance of the spices and the basmati rice will perfume your kitchen. Though done in "that rice-cooker thing", the rice has cooked up beautifully into loose, fluffy grains, and each and every one of it has soaked up all the warming flavours of cinnamon, cloves and cardamom, and the golden colour from the turmeric. Now I just need a big bubbling pot of curry with extra chillies, and I think I'm all set against the ridiculously late february snow.