The humble rice cooker is one of those reliable home appliances that everyone has, whether they consume a lot of rice or not. A mainstay in most Asian homes, it has its own quiet corner in the kitchen, always ready to dish out a quick plate of fluffy rice. A standard rice cooker is configured to boil rice, sense when to reduce it to a simmer, then finally, lower the heat to keep the rice warm, without overcooking it.
It’s a smart and simple way to cook, so why stick to just rice? With a little experimenting and a patience, you can easily trick that little non-stick pot to cook a variety of meals, from one pot dishes to delicious desserts. Just think of it as a slow cooker; it may not be as fast as cooking on a stove top, but it’s definitely worth a try if you want to cook your favourite dishes with the least amount of supervision and an easy clean up.
The rice cooker may not be the first appliance that comes to mind when you think of making breakfast, but in fact, you can cook a wide variety of breakfast foods in it. It is perfect for boiling a load of eggs at once, especially if it comes with a timer. Alternatively, whip up a few eggs in the rice bowl, throw in some frozen or chopped fresh vegetables and cook on the regular setting for tasty frittatas. Portion size will depend on the size of your rice bowl, but with a medium sized cooker, you can easily feed between two to three hungry people.
Some brands do come with a porridge setting, if not, you’ll have to play around with the oats to water ratio before you perfect your recipe. You can add everything from spices to dried fruits, or even eggs and meat to your congee Just add the oats into the cooker to soak overnight and then turn it on in the morning for a quick breakfast.
Soak dried beans and lentil overnight in the rice bowl, before cooking. If the cooker has a timer, you can soak the beans and set the timer to start cooking when you want the beans. When it comes to dried beans, assuming its bean soaked overnight, the cooking time can range between 20 to 35 minutes. If it’s not soaked, cooking time can extend anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. The benefit here is you don’t need to keep an eye on the pot once its cooking, as long as you put the correct amount of water, it won’t burn.
Place all your ingredients in the rice bowl, your choice of meat, spices, condiments and broth/water, then turn on the normal cooking setting. Once the cooking cycle ends, the rice cooker will automatically go into the ‘keep warm’ mode; leave it like that for an hour. This will slow cook the meat further so you’ll be left with deliciously soft meat that falls off the bone.
Simply throw in your ingredients, add enough water/broth to make a soup, and cook! If you’re adding meat, add it later in the cooking time, otherwise it may overcook. Unless that’s what you’re going for, in which case, go ahead. Just remember, dried ingredients first, followed by fresh vegetables and meat, then frozen vegetables.
The rice cooker is a great alternative to baking in an oven, not to mention a space saver. If you have a craving for cake, cheesecakes or even pancakes, just mix the ingredients in the bowl and switch on the normal cooking cycle. It usually takes about an hour to cook, and is done when a fork comes clean off the edges. You can also poach fruit, make your own homemade apple sauce or whip up an assortment of Delicious puddings.