Several years ago I was developing a series of Indian recipes and struggled to get the water-to-rice ratio just right for simple Basmati rice. A friend suggested “just using the Sri Lankan way.” Hm, what now? Well, apparently Sri Lankans don’t bother with specific measurements when making rice; instead, they just boil a pot of water and cook (and then drain) the rice like pasta. It’s faster, totally flexible and foolproof.
As it also turns out, it’s the easiest way to cook any grain, from quinoa to wheat berries. All that changes is the boiling time. Thank you, Sri Lanka!
Obviously, I love this. Being liberated from the anxiety of water-to-grain ratios means you can cook any grain on the fly and without a recipe. And it’s another reason why, if you’re running into the house in a mad rush to make something–anything–for dinner, it’s always wise to start by putting a pot of water on to boil.
You do need a metal mesh strainer or fine colander for this (otherwise your quinoa will flow right through it and into the sink) but you can get one in Chinatown or on Amazon for a song. I have two and use them both all the time.
Boil a large pot of salted water. Add rice (or any grain) and return to a boil. Boil very gently, stirring often, until tender. Strain and eat or add to any recipe. Here are a few rough timings :
basmati or jasmine rice: boil 10 to 12 minutes
quinoa: boil 7- 9 minutes
farro (pearled): boil 20 minutes
barley (pearled): boil 20 minutes
wheat berries: boil 25 – 28 minutes
brown rice: boil 22 – 25 minutes
For the full play-by-play, watch this episode of the 20-Minute Cooking School.
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