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Lipsmacking Backpacking

18 19 Big, small, or powdered, grains are a backpacker s friend. Even the biggest kind of grain, rice, is still very spaceefficient and rucksack friendly. You can fit grains into small corners and nearlyfull pockets. As far as the taste is concerned, it s pretty much up to you. Try a plate of plain, fluffy, stickyish white rice for breakfast or cook sweet fruity polenta as an accompaniment to fried chicken, or make faceslapping tangy cous cous to serve with a fresh salad. Don t forget that grains absorb much more of the water which they are cooked in than roots or bananas, so giving the water flavour will give your grain a lot of flavour too. They were made to play around with so experiment with whatever is to hand. The worst that can happen is that either you can undercook them pretend you did it on purpose Al dente or you overcook them, but that s okay too, it just means it s a bit soggy, but that s not the end of the world. You can add almost anything to rice. At one end of the scale is good old plain rice, and at the other end is a risotto, where the whole meal happens in the one pot. If you want onepot rice n vegetables, simply chop the veg up into small pieces and add them to the boiling water, stir and follow the instructions for simple rice. What you re doing is using the same water to cook both ingredients, that s all. The general point is that the harder the vegetable and the stronger the flavour the longer it needs to cook for. Onions and garlic for example, should be fried first, before the rice is added whereas say, bamboo shoots or tomatoes can be dropped in much later. Rice is great with finely chopped carrots, courgettes and mushrooms or with peppers, onions and garlic. Spices also work well and should be added to onions that have been fried for about 5 minutes. You can also go for a slightly different flavour by adding nuts, raisins or sultanas. Cashew nuts dropped into the water at the same time as the rice become deliciously juicy, and almonds especially if you have boiled them for ten minutes, slipped off their skins, then fried them with orange zest are just divine. Bringing the milk from a coconut to the boil and stirring that into cooked rice also has delicious results, as does putting in some desiccated coconut. The more things you add, the more the rice becomes a meal in its own right. When this happens, you have a risotto. I ve included a basic recipe from which you can add whatever takes your fancy. As a general rule, 1 cup or mug or one and bit handfuls of dry rice is enough for one, hungryish backpacker. About twice as much water as rice. Rice, Water, Salt Bring the water to the boil, add some salt then the rice, stir. Let it bubble and top it up with water if the level gets a little low. The rice should always be well covered with boiling liquid. Normally, it will take about 2025 minutes to cook. Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally. It doesn t need a lid. If you are using brown rice, it will take longer. Drain well and serve. For perfect breakfast rice, when it s cooked simply roughly drain it and then press it down in the pot and put a lid on. Eat it ten minutes later with your hands
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