Saturday 29 June 2013

Mexican Rice in the Microwave

Some things are worth persevering with.  Take my blog for instance.  Goodness I have learnt a lot in the six years since starting it but it still frustrates me.  I thought I had succeeded in putting up drop down menus.  Not quite.  The formatting of the posts is now a bit out.  I will get it sorted.  Eventually.

I thought finding a good basic recipe for Mexican Rice would be easy.  Such a common dish in Mexican cooking couldn't be that difficult.  It ended up being a long journey.  I started making it last year.  After burnt saucepans and dry microwaved rice, I finally had success this week.  It was well worth the perseverance.

I started with two recipes.  One from a trusted old cookbook, A Vegetarian Feast by Vikki Leng, and one from a superstar blogger, The Pioneer Woman.  I factored in my preferences for minimal spice and lots of vegies.  I simmered it on the stovetop for 12 to 15 minutes.

As you will see from the above saucepan, I had trouble with the rice sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.  It didn't make for much fun washing the dishes.

The rice tasted good.  It was an excellent combination with tacos. kidney bean stew, guacamole, yoghurt and spinach.  The tacos were more substantial.   It still needed more work.  I really wanted to have another go and leave less burnt rice behind.

Yet again, I ended up with another charred saucepan. And yummy Mexican rice.  This time I served it with soft tortillas, kidney bean stew, roasted mexican green beans and cashew crema.  The beans were adapted from these brussels sprouts but were too stringy for my liking.  The cashew crema was really good (see recipe at bottom of post).  Dinner was delicious but the rice just wasn't right.

Then I decided to try making the Mexican rice in the microwave.  This would make sure there were no burnt saucepans.  In retrospect it seems odd I didn't search the web for how to do it but my notes just show that I went to for information on how to cook rice in the microwave.  I ditched the onion and olive oil.  You will also see that I have added black pepper and chopped parsley for serving in the recipe below, yet I kept forgetting to add it in any of the photos.  I have left it there as a reminder. 

It worked.  The colour lost its burnt brown tinge and was bright red.  The first time it was ok.  I only added three quarters of a cup of water and cooked it for 4 minutes then 3, 3, 3, 2, 2 (total 13 minutes).  It worked but was a little dry.

Possibly this is why I served it with a tomato and bean stew.  The tofu bacon and avocado on top were particularly good.  I liked the corn in the rice but often have corn on the side so don't tend to add it regularly.  The rice still wasn't quite right.  More experiments were needed.

The next time I made it we served it with spring onion soup.  I increased the water to 1 cup and cooked it for 5 minutes, then 5, 3, 3 (total 16 minutes).  It was incredibly dry.  Good when stirred into a soup but not good enough to stand alone.  (Having said this, it is a fairly plain dish that I understand is a side dish rather than a centrepiece.)

Finally this week, I tried it again.  This time I upped the water to one and a half cups and I cooked it for 5 minutes and then 5, 5, 3, 1 (total 19 minutes).  It was just right.  I serve it in tacos with onion, kale, pumpkin, black beans and soy cheese.  The vegies weren't quite seasoned enough but the rice was so so so very good.  It was my eureka moment.  Even if others have been there before me.

I am aware that microwaves vary in power (if you have one) and whenever you alter the amount of ingredients it can affect cooking times.  You have probably noticed that it is not the quickest way to make Mexican rice.  It was quicker on the stovetop.  And it is possibly not quite traditional.  Yet this recipe works for me.  And along the way I have had fun experimenting with how to serve Mexican rice.

I am sending this to Ricki's Wellness Weekends.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Yoghurt pastry, flatbreads, cakes, knitting, aquarium
Two years ago: Marshmallow Weetbix slice
Three years ago: Going on a picnic with nutroast
Four years ago: Hellenic Republic – land of the lotus eaters
Five years ago: Winter Solstice Galettes

Microwave Mexican Rice
serves 4

1 small carrot, diced
1/2 red capsicum, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
kernels of a cob of corn, optional
1/2 tsp chilli paste
1 cup long grain white rice (I use basmati)
400g tin diced tomatoes
1 and 1/2 cups boiling water
1 tsp powdered stock
1/2 cup frozen peas
freshly ground black pepper and chopped parsley, to serve

Choose a large microwave proof bowl and something to cover it with.  I have a plastic cover with vents that fits perfectly over my large purex mixing bowl.

Place carrots, capsicum (and fresh corn if using) and 1/2 cup of water in bowl.  Cook on high for about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and cook anothe minute.  Now add remaining ingredients and microwave for 15 minutes, stirring after each 5 minute interval.  At this point check the rice to see if it is soft.  I gave mine another 3 minutes and then a minute. (ie the closer it gets to being done the more often you check the rice.)   My microwave is not a powerful one so others might be quicker. 

It is ready when the rice is just soft but there is still a little liquid left.  Leave the rice covered for about 10 minutes out of the microwave and some of the liquid will be absorbed as the cooking can continue once out of the microwave.

Check and adjust seasoning.  Grind some black pepper over it and then scatter with fresh parsley if desired.

Enjoy with your favourite Mexican dishes.  I recommend a legume dish like kidney bean stew, something creamy like cashew tofu crema (below), yoghurt or guacamole, something green like spinach or lettuce, and some tacos or tortillas.

Cashew Tofu Crema
Adapted from Veganomicon via Veganise This

1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews*
250g medium tofu, drained
1/2 cup soy milk
1 clove garlic (crushed if your food processor needs help)
4 tbsp lemon juice
1 and 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp nutrtional yeast flakes
pinch smoked paprika

Blend in a blender or food processor until creamy.

*Update July 2014: mad this tonight in food processor because little blender broken.  The nuts didn't seem to blend at first but were not much noticeable in the final crema.  I added a tbsp of cashew butter anyway to make sure it was creamy enough.

On the Stereo:
Hunting of the Snark soundtrack


  1. The rice looks really tasty Johanna

    1. Thanks Jac - it is is - but not overwhelmingly so

  2. I know those sort of saucepan bottoms well! They are the nights where washing up is more than a chore and becomes a battle of wills with starch - which means I am really delighted to have this recipe to draw on next time we want a rice dish like this. I also like the sound of the tofu creama. I think I'll have to try this meal :-)

    1. Thanks Kari - I am not good with these recipes where you leave it and pray the dinner is cooked and the saucepan is in a good state - I must try this crema again - it was a nice alternative to yoghurt or sour cream

  3. I'm liking your drop down menus...very nicely done. Your rice making sounds like a real process...glad you go there in the end.

    1. Thanks Mel - I think the drop down menus have caused me more grief than the rice - but then again they have such a cascading effect on the rest of the blog

  4. Well done for keep going until you got your perfect rice. I've not had mexican rice that often but sounds yummy. Will have to give it a go.

    1. Thanks Katie - I think I must have had it at restaurants because suddenly I had a yen to make my own

  5. I love Mexican food. Reading through all your iterations has made me really hungry! :)

    1. Thanks Rachel - I love Mexican food too though I am probably better making it as home as I like it to be easy on the chillis

  6. This sounds delicious! I admire your perserverance - I would have given it away.

    1. Thanks Cakelaw - I might have given it away if I wasn't enjoying the dishes along the way :-)

  7. I loved reading about your perseverance with this and am so glad that your efforts paid off in the end. Mexican rice (with Mexican meatballs) became one of my favourite meals when I was a teenager as it was the first really ethnic dish my mum made. Funnily enough she got the recipe from a microwave cooking class and it was the only meal in our house that was ever cooked solely in the microwave.

    The crema sound great the way you have adapted it too!

    1. Thanks Mel - do you do a veg version of mexican meatballs - sounds like a great dish but have never heard of it. I think I still remember the wonder of microwaves coming into my life and maybe that is why I still get excited at being able to make stuff in the microwave that saves me time or burnt saucepans

  8. Love your Mexican rice adventures - glad you've found the perfect recipe for you now! I've never really thought of microwaving rice, the one time I tried it there was a horrible overflow and a terrible mess to clean up and I've stuck to boiling it on the hob ever since!


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