Is it possible for a love of rice to be genetic?
My mom adores rice. She often says that she could happily sit down to a bowl of it all by itself, maybe with a little Earth Balance on it. I’m the same way, though my mix-ins of choice range from cinnamon and raisins or dates to curry powder and chickpeas. And yes, sometimes I just eat rice as part of a snack.
So of course I was thrilled when the lovely people at Ariven Planet asked if I would like to sample their Imperial Rice. What is Imperial Rice, you ask? From the Ariven website:
This is India’s ancient, indigenous rice known for its delicious flavor, rich nuttiness, and plump cooked grains that have an exceedingly soft texture.
Around 1,500 years ago, during the rule of the Chera and Chola dynasties of Southern India, this rice was considered a royal food, and commoners were not allowed to enjoy it.
It goes on to note that the rice is easy to digest due to a carbohydrate content that’s lower than that of many other grains, with a texture that’s enjoyable even by those who aren’t enthusiastic about brown rice. The rice is grown without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers and contains all the nutrients you’d expect to find in a whole grains, including B vitamins.
The goal at Ariven is to provide sanctuaries for discarded animals that were once destined to become food. As they work to realize this goal, they strive to provide nourishing, environmentally friendly products and use a portion of the profits to feed the hungry. You can read more about their story here.
What does Imperial Rice taste like? The closest thing I can compare it to is a cross between regular brown rice and barley, but much softer than both. My first reaction was that this is a rather odd texture for rice, and the more I ate, the more it grew on me. A serving size is 3 tablespoons, which I thought was a bit low until I saw how much it fluffed up during cooking.
To cook, you use a 4:1 ratio as for wild rice. Unlike wild rice, Imperial Rice becomes much bigger and softer, though it does have a similarly enticing nutty aroma as it cooks. I found that I needed to drain a bit of excess off, but it didn’t come out sticky or wet. Which is nice, because I still seem to have a problem with that even after all these years of cooking copious amounts of rice!
The first thing I did with this rice was to mix it with curry powder and chickpeas, figuring Indian rice = Indian spices! Turns out, though it wasn’t bad, that wasn’t the right combination. As I was eating it, I thought, “This would be awesome in anything with mushrooms.” Risotto sprang to mind given the short grains, but I’m not a fan of all the stirring involved. Then it came to me–gravy!
Yes, rice and gravy. Because who doesn’t like mushroom gravy? For a template, I went back to my chickpea gravy recipe and drew a little extra inspiration from a seriously comforting kale/gravy bowl that I make on occasion. The result was the recipe below. It’s the perfect mix of textures for pairing with this rice: slightly firm chickpeas, chewy mushrooms and silky spinach in a warm, peppery gravy.
Note that you really have to use spinach in this recipe. I’m a big fan of swapping out greens for whatever I have on hand, but the almost velvety feel that spinach gets when it cooks down is essential here. So is using a lot of pepper, preferably fresh-ground! The flour, however, can be swapped out for whole wheat, white whole wheat or even a tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with a bit of water. Whatever gets you the consistency you like in gravy, go for it.
This is unabashed comfort food, which is pretty much what Imperial Rice is. Rice in general is known for being hypoallergenic, and of course we vegans suck it down like crazy (or at least I do). Imperial Rice takes that one step further by imparting a pleasing texture that even staunch white rice lovers will warm up to. I’d have given it two thumbs up immediately, but I was too busy enjoying it! If you’d like to try some for yourself, scroll down to find out how to win a bag!
- 1/2 cup Ariven Planet Imperial Rice
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup onion, chopped small
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cups mushrooms, sliced
- 6 cups spinach, packed
- 2 tbsp spelt flour
- 1tsp dried thyme
- 2 cups veg broth
- 1 cup chickpeas, drained & rinsed
- salt & pepper to taste
- Rinse the rice under cool water and drain well. Combine the rice and the water in a medium sauce pan, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 45 minutes. Remove the rice from the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes before draining any excess water and fluffing with a fork.
- While the rice is cooking, place the onion and garlic in a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Cover and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, covered, for 5 minutes more, or until the mushrooms begin to release their juices
- Add the flour and stir to coat. Pour in the vegetable broth, then add the thyme and chickpeas. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and summer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, until the broth begins to thicken.
- Add the spinach and stir to wilt. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 more minutes. Add pepper to taste and serve over the rice.
The folks at Ariven Planet are offering one lucky QV reader a free bag of this delicious rice! All you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling me how you’d incorporate it into a meal. Please be sure to include a viable e-mail address so I can contact you if you win.
Giveaway Closed! Congratulations to Jeffrey, our winner!
(You can still try Imperial Rice for yourself! Head over to the Ariven site and use the code BETHECHANGE108 to get 15% off your order!)