Like most people I thought my rice cooker was just for cooking rice. How wrong I was! In fact you can use a rice cooker to prepare an amazing variety of dishes, from breakfasts and lunches, to main courses and starters, as well as breads and cakes. The great advantage of rice cooker cooking is that if you only have a small kitchen or, if your kitchen’s being renovated, you can still prepare a full, healthy meal for one person or, indeed, a family. And they make great presents for a son or daughter who’s leaving for further study or an independent life because they can be used to make an excellent one-dish dinner.
For years, I just bought basic rice cookers with an on/off switch. They’re great but the more sophisticated and expensive ones feature different cooking times and different functions e.g. steam or sauté. But the basic ones are good to start with because you learn to open the cooker from time to time to check on progress. One thing that that’s important to remember is not to fill the bowl more than about half full, especially if there’s a lot of liquid. This is because you don’t want your rice cooker to overflow when the liquid boils. It makes a nasty mess – and most probably shortens the life of the cooker. In the basic mode you can use the tray that comes with the cooker to prepare your veggies – well worth the saving in electricity costs and washing up.
Your imagination is the limit to what you can prepare. Risottos and pilaffs are great and very easy but you can cook other grains too, such as quinoa, spelt, and bulgar wheat. Try a whole chicken on a bed of onions and garlic with lemon juice and tarragon on top. You will have to reset the timer a couple of times until the chicken’s done (check for the chicken juices running clear). You can make standbys such as Macaroni Cheese, Focaccia bread, Chicken breasts with rice and mushrooms, Black bean chili, “Stir fried” cabbage, and even Boiled eggs. Breakfast – which some people say is the most important meal of the day – is a breeze. You can gently steam a couple of eggs, or knock up some oatmeal porridge. Or you could poach some fruit. Best of all you can put it on (with a pot of coffee gently brewing) while you shower and get ready for work. When you’re ready, so is your breakfast.
For the frittata (pictured here), I sautéed some onions, a yellow pepper, a tomato, and a couple of Portobello mushrooms. All the veggies were cut finely so they cooked quickly.You could try also leek, courgette, aubergine,potato – it’s up to you. Then I beat up five eggs and poured the mixture into the well oiled bowl of my rice cooker. I added the veggie mixture and some grated cheese and switched the machine on. Twenty minutes later I came back to find my frittata perfectly done. All it needed was a little green salad! So give it a go and let me know how it turns out!