rice hotpot completeCredit: Sue Visser

Knowing how to cook a good variety of delicious food, all in the same pot or pan can make power outs and load shedding less cumbersome. In South Africa one has to put up with the steady disruption of electricity and we are often cheated out of a hot meal at dinner time. We try to plan our way around the 2 – 3 hour spells of no electricity in the kitchen but a single gas or paraffin stove is a good standby. Coping with this limited option requires a degree of skill to serve food suitable for discerning guests within a limited time span. Keeping separate servings on the plate instead of a homogenous mush is the real challenge!

This delicious one pot meal can be adapted to add fun and variety to any power-deprived dinner by candlelight.

Rice and vegetables for four

This one pot, one bowl per person meal can have a Chinese, Thai, Malay, Italian or Indian bias, depending on the spices and vegetables you add to the rice. Use this recipe as a basic guide and adapt it to suit your pantry or palate.

Ingredients for 4 large helpings:

1 cup of rice. The long grain (Bonnet) rice will suit most dishes. The short, fat-grained Chinese or sushi rice is good for Chinese, Korean and Thai variations – and also for fake risotto. Basmati rice is best suited to Indian food. Parboiled rice is also suitable for a firmer texture.

A variety of vegetables.  Onions, leeks, cabbage, carrots, courgettes, mushrooms, butternut, red and yellow peppers.

Basic seasoning: salt and pepper and a stock cube.

Optional are 4 – 6 eggs, cheese, nuts, lentil sprouts and key ingredients or spices to suit your theme.

Start cooking. Stove time, about 30 – 40 minutes

Use a large, deep heavy-bottomed frying pan or wok with a lid. If you have no electricity, use your Cadac or Primus stove. If you have electricity, cook the dish on the stove and keep it warm. It will stay hot enough for an hour.

After chopping and preparing the vegetables, heat up a tablespoon or two of cooking oil in the pan and add the coarsely chopped onions, leeks, peppers, chunks of carrots and butternut. (Cabbage strips can be added at this stage or placed separately on top of the dish.)

Setup for rice hotpotCredit: Sue Visser

Give them a stir with a wooden spatula and add the rice (no need to wash it). Keep stirring and as it sizzles pour in 3 cups of cold water. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and crumble in the stock cube. The leek and onion stock cube then adds a lot more flavour to the rice.

Fry rice and verg add waterCredit: Sue Visser

When the mixture is bubbling fiercely, turn the heat down to low and cover the pan with a well-fitting lid. It will take about 20 minutes from here. You can now add the remaining ingredients:

Sink the eggs down into the rice and veg mixture so they are covered. Enjoy them as hard-boiled eggs or chop them and sprinkle on top of each serving afterwards.

Place a layer of cabbage strips (fake noodles) on top of the rice, pressing it down to make a side dish or zero starch “noodles”.  Over another part of the mixture, add large black mushrooms, gill side down to serve with soy sauce. You can also add a cup of frozen peas or baby green beans or courgette strips as they cook quickly. Add tomato chunks later on, if making risotto.

The basic idea of one pot cooking in phases allows one to plate the food with separate vegetables. Once they have been picked off, the remaining rice mixture can be served as is or spiced up and mixed with more ingredients. Grated cheese melted over the top with fresh chives, for instance.

Second layer of vegetablesCredit: Sue Visser

Storage and meals with leftovers of your rice mixture

Rice portions can be frozen in silicone muffin trays and popped out onto a plate as you need them. Microwave for 1 minute to defrost and heat your plate at the same time.

Pack the rice mixture into small soup bowls and freeze them. They can be defrosted the morning before and warmed up in the evening, standing in a pot with a little water. When tipped out, they provide a classy mound of rice. Make an omelette and cut it into strips for Chinese rice or serve with a fried egg and peanut sauce (peanut butter and hot milk) for an Indonesian variation called gado-gado.  

Chinese of Korean breakfastCredit: sue Visser

Nasi goring (Indonesian fried rice) Fry chopped onions and shredded cabbage with some oil in a pan. Add the rice and lower the temperature, so the mixture does not stick.

Serve warmed up leftover rice mixture with kimchi, grated carrot and cos lettuce for a Korean variation. They also heat up the cooked rice mixture in a stone bowl, add soy sauce and stir in a raw egg. The resultant conglomeration is called Bibimbap. (See our feature on Korean food.)

For pilaf, the Middle Eastern version of warmed up rice, fry chopped onion, add turmeric and a sprinkle of cardamom, cumin and coriander with chopped ginger and garlic. Stir in the rice and lower the heat. Add a little water if it begins to stick to the pan. Eat it with your fingers.

Biriyani can be made as the entire hot pot or for a quick leftover version, fry up chopped onion, and turmeric, ginger plus curry spices before adding rice into the pan and turning down the heat.

Fake risottoCredit: Sue Visser

For fake risotto, add tomato to the main pot. Stir in amasi (fermented milk) to make it creamy. Turn down the heat. Mix in a generous amount of parmesan cheese and chopped green olives. Serve on a bed of shredded lettuce with the hard-boiled eggs.

Bhutan is primarily a vegetarian country and they would serve warmed up rice with grated cheese that is melted over it. For authenticity, add a serving of tofu and shiitake or black gilled mushrooms. Season the meal with soy sauce.

Add grated cheese for BhutanCredit: Sue Visser

Korean / Chinese style breakfast: Warm up leftover rice mix in a soup bowl placed in a pot containing 5cm of boiling water. Place a few eggs in the water, cover the pot with a lid and boil them for 10 minutes.  To serve, mix in some red chilli oil, add a salad made of grated carrot and slice up a few gherkins. Bring out the kimchi or sauerkraut it you have some handy.