Ask Peter: Puffed rice
Bite featured a recipe using puffed rice recently and I am intrigued — could you substitute that from the Indian grocer with the rice bubbles in the cupboard, or are they completely different things? Edgar
I’m not entirely sure what the puffed rice from the grocer looks or tastes like but I’m guessing puffed rice, in all its forms is more or less the same thing. The rice will likely have been par-boiled, then dehydrated, before being cooked at a high temperature either by deep-frying or blasting with hot air.
This technique is used a lot in restaurants, including my own. At The Sugar Club my head chef Nagaraju will soak basmati rice in cold water for 10 minutes, then drain it, and boil it like pasta until almost overcooked (the pre-soaking helps keep its shape).
It’s then drained, briefly rinsed, and laid out in single layers on trays in a dehydrator — the sort of thing you dry fruit purees in to make fruit leathers. Once dried, it’s deep-fried in a few centimetres of oil until it pops and becomes crisp. Left to drain and cool, and stored in an airtight container it’ll be delicious for several weeks.
Obviously this is quite a lot of faff to get some crispy rice when in fact you could use rice bubbles and I think they’d work really well. I’d suggest a few tweaks though — depending on what you’ll be serving them with.
In a dish like the aforementioned puffed rice salad, reminiscent of the delicious multi-flavour-layered bhel puris that I ate in Bombay (as it was called when I was there in 1986), what you’re after is a crunchy rice-y non-not crunch. Because there seem to be quite a lot of punchy flavours in the mix, keeping the rice nice and simple is the trick.
But if you decided to add some puffed rice to, say, a salad of flaked hot-smoked salmon, diced avocado and cucumbers, you could flavour the rice bubbles with chilli flakes, crushed fennel and cumin seeds, chopped garlic and a few teaspoons of sesame oil or olive oil. Toss everything together and bake in one layer (i.e. don’t fill a deep dish) at 160C, stirring frequently, until aromatic and golden brown.
If you add any liquid to the mix beware: the liquid will have to evaporate in order for the rice to remain crispy which will take longer (and you’ll risk cooking the rice to dark brown, so if you come over all Mexican and want to make the rice tangy with lime, add it to the finished dish as a juice instead). Now you’ve mastered the joys of secret ways with rice bubbles, you can also apply it to cornflakes.
At my restaurant The Providores in London we’re currently tossing them with milk powder, butter, icing sugar and spices and baking them until they become a deliciously crunchy sweet garnish we’re currently serving with bacon ice cream and banana salted caramel. I’ve also just made a version with maple syrup that we’re putting on a doughnut in a few weeks’ time to raise money for the charity Action Against Hunger.
To be honest I’d not bought any such cereal for years as I’d moved on to granola and muesli that I make myself, but it’s been fun reminiscing about these old childhood memories.
Another way I like to use cornflakes is to crush them reasonably small and use to coat prawns, chicken croquettes and other suitable foods when you want something more than just breadcrumbs.
I once ate a delicious, but slightly bonkers chicken bake that was poached chicken meat shredded into bechamel sauce and sliced field mushrooms, toppeda new respect for cerealwith grated smoked cheese, cornflakes and rice bubbles. It was marvellous and moreish and gave me a new respect for cereal!
This recipe by Ritu Kapoor came in 3rd place in our Springtime reader recipe competition. She says: This dish is inspired by bhel puri, a popular Indian street food. I have added cucumber, tomatoes, herbs and peanuts and substituted the fried base for puffed rice, making it lighter, healthier and yummy. It is a great snack, side salad, light lunch or supper. Perfect for spring and summer! Get the recipe
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to [email protected] and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.