Black rice is the mysterious, dark, hidden jewel of the rice kingdom. A jet black, enveloping chasm of colour, a deep unknown place of hidden beauty, sparkling in the shadows.
Black rice – the forbidden fruit.
It was the forbidden fruit, a royal treat stored only for the Chinese Emperor, his family and concubines. A mere peasant such as myself could be put to death for laying his hands on black rice, a very dark association to go with this darkest of grains, which earned the name ‘Forbidden Rice’. The Emperor was not stupid, he understood something which we are now learning through scientific analysis, which he must have gleaned through intuition and anecdotal evidence. Black rice is loaded with more antioxidants than any other rice and as such could have a genuinely positive effect on your health. One could even claim it might extend your life, as the Chinese did, if you took this to extremes. Having that knowledge would surely lead any self respecting megalomaniac to defend their access to this highly valued crop with a penalty of death.
It’s Not Nutty.
Luckily, we live in a world where any normal, reasonable food is accessible to all and unlikely to result in being put to death. Only if you have decidedly anti-social or ethically, morally and medically dangerous food-based predilections will you be in any danger (Yes, I am looking at you, Mr Lecter). We can trot down to Wholefoods or click our way across to Ocado and pick up a bulging bag of the no-longer-forbidden rice, then partake in a feast fit for an emperor and his finest foods.
This black rice is a delicate ingredient to deal with. I have a minor peeve at the proliferation of people who claim that every grain is nutty. Apparently chia is a nutty seed, spelt is a nutty grain, black rice is a nutty rice; it feels like a ridiculously trite comment. Unless my olfactory and gustatory senses are unusually retarded, nutty isn’t the first word I’d jump to in description of this food. It exhibits a depth of flavour, a sense of umami and a wholeness which plain white rice lacks. It’s like comparing water with milk. White rice alone can seem a bit thin, lacking in flavour, which makes it perfectly suited to laying down with curries or taking on spices and sauces in myriad dishes. White rice plays the part where it props up, or takes on lots of flavours, and it does that very well indeed.
Black rice, however, feels more central to the flavour of the dish, so you need to consider how it will sit with your other ingredients and view it as a headline role, rather than a supporting part. I’ve taken the plunge into full scale umami territory with this dish, rollocking around with miso and mushrooms, which are about as savoury as you can get. Putting them with black rice really gets the wholesome umami box ticked with a thick, black marker pen.
The resultant dish has such deep, rich flavours it smelled almost like a meat dish when cooking. However, this completely vegan and vegetarian recipe has nothing of the sort, just a host of great flavours that make it a super-savoury one pot or would join up beautifully as a side dish to support a chunk of meat or fish. However you choose to use it, enjoy the black rice happily, safe in the knowledge that unlike the ancient Chinese citizens, your life is safe when partaking in this special grain.
Black Rice with Miso Mushrooms
By Gavin Wren
Uses a large saucepan
1 tablespoon ground nut oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 onion, peeled and chopped
Thumb sized piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
300g mini portabella mushrooms, sliced
200g wild mushrooms, sliced
80g miso paste
2 tablespoons mirin
350g black rice
750ml vegetable stock
1 Red chilli, sliced
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
Add the mushrooms, fry for another 5 minutes, then add the miso, mirin and rice and mix well. Add the stock.
Bring to a simmer, partially cover the pan and cook for 55 minutes. Check a grain of rice before serving to make sure it’s cooked, it might need a little bit longer and if the pan becomes dry, add a little more stock.
Serve, scattered with sliced red chilli, sesame seeds and chopped coriander.