“Aren’t you meant to be plotting a novel right now?”
“Don’t you have a manuscript to edit?”
I just finished a pass, let me have five minutes.
“You’ve had rather more than f–”
I made an art. You can buy prints, if you are absolutely desperate to own a print of a bowl of rice rather than an actual bowl of rice. Personally, I would rather have the rice, but I’m very hungry. This particular rice was consumed after an exhaustive examination of the Tate Britain’s long-awaited & hotly-anticipated Queer British Art: 1861 – 1967. I should probably have an opinion on that, on here, at length, but to be honest I feel that drawing a bowl of rice is less contentious and contributes more to the world than me bellyaching about minor details in what is, regardless of my fussing and personal preferences, a splendid step in the right direction regarding the inclusion of queer history.
So after I crashed in following a long silence (I’ve been busy doing fuck all! It’s very important) to explain that you can boil an egg in a Thermos Jar, an important discovery for someone who eats as many eggs as I do (did you know you can also wok-steam eggs in the top of a stir-fry or soup? Did you know you can bake eggs in the oven and cook them in a microwave and that I would probably have some weird protein deficiency if I didn’t remember to eat eggs occasionally because I keep forgetting there are food groups which aren’t “vegetable”?), vegan friend and Two-Fisted Librarian Matthew informed me that “couscous is another easy thing you can make”.
Now personally I consider it a crisis situation if I have to eat couscous. It’s not in my top fifty “things I want to eat”. It’s improved by sauces and so on and generally not being presented plain and with herbs on it while so dry that you can feel it forming angry clay in your stomach, which is how I consumed it as a young ‘un, but the association is strong and I’d Prefer Not To. One of the great things about being an adult is that unless there are no other options you can Prefer Not To and not eat something. You don’t have to invent a food intolerance or fake your own death or have an important moral reason not to, you can genuinely just say “nah, not into it”. Amazing!
But I do like other grain-type-things. I mean, I basically live on rice these days.
Previous experiments with microwave-your-own-rice contraptions, which ended in defeat and a very large microwave rice cooker, and then later in just caving in and buying a proper rice cooker in which you can make ALMOST ANYTHING IMAGINABLE (I am still not over this, you can make CAKE and OMELETTE and SOUP, I bet you could bake a fucking potato in one), have taught me that I am still thirsting/hungering for a way to make a small portion of rice without inconveniencing myself.
Which is where Matthew’s comment about the Thermos Jar comes in: the minimum amount of rice you can cook in my blindingly wonderful mini rice cooker is given as “80” on the measuring cup. I assume this means 80ml. It is hard to tell. It is merely “80”. One is advised not to use a smaller amount.
Now I’ve just done an unscientific experiment with the trusty Thermos Jar What I Got From A Charity Shop For A Quid (it rattles) in which I was also boiling an egg, and lobbed in a tablespoon of sushi rice To See What Would Happen, because one of the other things about being a grown-up is that I can decide to do things like that. Sometimes this results in horrifying experiences and sometimes it results in delicious ones. This time, pouring boiling water into a Thermos Jar, sealing it, and then fucking off to watch David Attenborough talking about plants for a longer time than intended resulted in something else, i.e. cooked rice.
I plan to try again and work out which proportion of uncooked rice to hot water is necessary to get just rice and no leftover liquid after expansion and whether stirring dashi in as well gets a good, even distribution, but I have reasonable hopes that you can, in fact, cook rice in a Thermos.
[If this turns out to be the case I’m seeing a certain application for those who want to have a hot lunch at work and don’t have a microwave, or those who, as mentioned before, cannot really afford to have something running on electricity for the time it takes to make a hot meal].
I am sharing the benefit of my wisdom because I have spent HOURS OF MY LIFE searching for a single-serving microwave rice cooker and have come to the horrifying conclusion that they don’t exist. Naturally I wanted to know why this was, and spent quite a while obsessively designing ever-more elaborate possibilities while honing my Dragon’s Den pitch for when I inevitably produced a whole “system” of individual rice blah de blah blah.
Anyway it turns out that you have to have some kind of CAD skills or indeed skills at all for the route I was contemplating, but after several experiments with a Sistema soup mug and several hockey pucks of burnt rice in the bin I’ve got this nailed.
But first: why the heck is there no rice-to-water ratio calculator online? I don’t mean those flimsy recipe things where they tell you it’s “about two cups of water to one of rice”, we dwell in the Metric Zone in this house and precision matters. Also cups are inconsistent and confusing and a weird way to measure solids. And one cup of dried rice makes far more rice than one person wants to eat.
2:1 my ass. Our sample size is 35g of dried rice (because that works out at 100 calories). Two of that is 70, which in the language of water is 70ml.
Put that in the microwave for 9 minutes and you too could have a startlingly compact hockey puck of rice.
Maybe the ratio is 3:1.
In this instance, 105ml of water, which is also insufficient.
Read my lips
At this point more research reveals that the steaming process after microwaving is very important, but we’re still ending up with some chewy hard rice.
At last! A correct quantity.
200ml water to 35g dried rice (at 7 1/2 minutes)
The next gruelling step is to figure out how to take away some of the elements of measuring from this, because it’s not always feasible to have a measuring jug. Obviously I’m going to draw a line on my rice cooker – I’d have a ridge in the plastic but aforementioned lack of CAD skills, 3-D printers, and confidence – at the point the water is meant to come to.
For some mad reason I decided to calculate this, instead of either a) pouring in the correct amount of water, seeing how high it came, and marking it or b) looking up the capacity of my container and dividing it up until I got to the appropriate quantity.
What I have mainly learned from this is that I am no good at geometry.
I spent a while trying to work out the relationship between the rice and water, but I think it might be logarithmic. Certainly while 35g/200ml makes sense as around 5.71428 (that is, rice is 5.71428 times less than water), once you increase the amounts linearly it stops working.
This is a Muji 400ml microwave tub with a wee vent on the top for steam. I figure there’s a larger margin for steam than in a 250ml version of the same thing, but not so much additional space (as with the 625ml Sistema mug I did the first experiments in) that the rice looks sad and forlorn at the bottom. Basically, you can pop in your rice (and in this case, dried seaweed and soy) and also eat it out of the thing afterward.
35g basmati rice
800 watt microwave
7.5 minutes at full power, 5 minutes standing without being disturbed (so the steam continues to cook it).
And just to appease my sad, sad desire for the whole supermarket/vending machine system of sachets and flavour things that will never be (they could have been branded so nicely!):