Cook against the clock: sticky-sweet coconut rice

Join Spinneys Magazine’s Joe Russell as he tests the theory that delicious food can be on the table in under 30 minutes

This recipe was written for people, such as serious cooks, keen cooks, real adults who have cooked once in their lives, with access to a functioning can opener. I know this because before I rolled up my sleeves I asked our food editor Amy Fullwood, the brain behind the recipe and author of my future demise, to confirm my suspicions: ‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘I wrote it for people with access to a functioning can opener.’

I am not one of those people. It’s not that I don’t own a can opener, it’s that my can opener also doubles up as a chocolate teapot. As such, I had to spend the first 10 minutes of my allotted 30 using a knife to coax open the can of coconut milk. This initial, don’t-try-at-home struggle put me way behind schedule and meant I had to squeeze 25 minutes’ work into just 20.

When I have to rush in the kitchen, regret, sometimes smoke, frequently tears, tend to be not far behind. If you want to avoid the same, skip straight over the words that follow (just like I did with all the recipe’s IGNORE ME AT YOUR PERIL points) and escape here to see how the dessert should be made.

‘Simmer gently for 25 minutes,’ the second step barked to cook the rice. ‘That’ll be the day,’ I muttered, as if the recipe and I were arguing. ‘Can’t you see I’ve a clock to beat here?’ Challenged and affronted, I proceeded to do as I did when talking to teachers at school – assumed I knew better. I reasoned I could still meet the deadline if I cooked the rice for 15 minutes, using what I at the time coined ‘the super-simmer’ method but have since renamed ‘the stupid-simmer’ and discovered is actually known, in technical circles, as ‘boiling’.

Suffice to say this ‘hack’ does not work – unless of course you like the idea of scorched rice, in which case hit me up for all the dirty details. This stupidity of mine helps identify those black flecks you can see (vanilla seeds? Pah!), and my inability to read (it was only in the aftermath I noticed the ‘stirring often’ instruction) explains why the rice looks sticky rather than sticky.

It wasn’t a complete disaster. I managed to salvage enough for one portion, and the flavour was delicious, seriously fragrant with lemon grass. I ate mine with mango because a) it’s Indian mango season which is the most wonderful time of the year and b) I figured I’d already done the recipe a disservice, so I might as well go the whole nine yards and not use the recommended fruit either.

So, to summarise – one pan that took an age to not-quite-clean; one iffy pudding that didn’t do the recipe justice; one bruised ego that took time to heal. And worst of all, the entire charade took almost two minutes longer than it should have. I’ll never get that time back, and it’s for this reason that from this point onwards what happened in the pan will stay in the pan – quite literally.

This isn’t the first time Joe Russell tackled a 30-minute marvel… see how he did with cacio e pepe.


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Joe Russell is the senior sub-editor for the Spinneys magazine. With a degree in English and love for food, he enjoys little more than sinking his teeth into editing a recipe (and then trying it out at home).