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By Simon Thompson
 
     

Rice often appears to be a food item that requires work. It’s understandable, in a way, as it can easily go wrong, it can be too mushy or too hard, and sometimes it just seems boring. But rice is such a versatile grain, and you don’t need to be the best chef in a restaurant to whip up an appetising meal with rice as your main course.

Using rice as a student runs through a variety of possibilities. Sometimes a bowl of boiled rice with some vegetables or a salad is really good, but it’s easy to make a simple meal more interesting than just plain boiled rice. Like I mentioned all the way back in the first part of this series – spices are your friend. Even if it’s just a bowl of rice to go with some noodles don’t be afraid to add your salt, or your coriander, or your black pepper. Don’t go overboard if it’s just a side, but spicing up your boiled rice makes the dish much more enjoyable and interesting. And when you think of spice and rice you probably end up thinking about a quick fry-up. This entry in the series will head to a fry-up, but I’ll share a Caribbean based rice recipe that’s both versatile and a bit healthier than a regular fry-up.

Depending on where you’re from it might be called just “peas and rice” or “cook-up rice”, and it basically sees all the ingredients going into a pot for about 45 minutes and being “cooked up”. It remains, though, my favourite rice related meal by a mile.

The main ingredients you need are:

  • 1 can of peas (preferably black-eyed peas, split peas, or chickpeas)
  • 2 and a half cups of rice
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic
  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 cup of chicken stock or 1 can of mushroom soup (optional)
  • 3 spring onions (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 2 handful of chopped cabbage (optional)
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 can of black-eyed beans
  • ½ teaspoon each of the following spices: thyme, coriander, rosemary, Cajun spice, allspice (experiment to your heart’s content here)

The meat here is optional, but if you’re using meat and cooking from raw cook it first. Seasoned meat with some salt, vinegar, black pepper and your choice of spices sautéed for about ten to fifteen minutes begins from where you add in your onion and garlic frying until the onion are tender. Pour in all the water (or soup or stock) and bring to a boil and then add your coconut milk.

During this add your scallions, your pepper and salt and all your spices and cabbage (if you’re using any). Pour all your rice in. Boil this for about 20 minutes at which point you add in your canned beans. Stir well and let boil until the rice is soft. The end.

Cook-up is a food that tends to taste better after being left overnight, so it’s good to make a large batch and keep for leftovers.

The Guyanese version of this meal, the one called cook-up, is incredibly versatile. For example, you can make a vegetable cook-up with vegetables instead, while pumpkin cook up sees you replacing the 2 cups of peas with 2 cups of diced pumpkin. You can change the choice of meat if you like as well, adding pork or beef as substitutes in addition. And remember this versatility: if you want to add a can of chopped tomatoes, then go for it. If you’d like to add some chopped cucumbers, just as well, or some grated carrots. If you’re doing fish, though, it’s better to do it separately since it tends to get crushed being boiled for so long.

This may seem like a big commitment to make with a preparation time of about an hour, but when you think of all the things in this – this is a meal with its own salad in it if you want to. The cook-up name is indicative of the way you just put everything you want into a pot and cook up for as long as you’d like, and how you’d like. The pot is doing all the work for you, giving you a tasty meal and a nice easy recipe for students who’d like to live on more than noodles and packaged food.

By Andrew Kendall

 
 
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