The How & Why



PASTA, FLOUR & breakfast CEREAL – a STAPLE in my cupboard…

All of these are GRAINS

others you might have in your cupboard could also be:
corn, wheat, rice, barley, oats, rye & millet.

To give you an idea of what a grain looks like think of it in 3 layers:
The outside layer – BRAN – is a protective coat
The middle layer – ENDOSPERM – is where the food is stored and is where you will find most of the starch
And the inside layer – GERM – sounds terrible, I know, but it’s not! It’s the miniature plant that eventually becomes bigger & grows!

All grains, although having the three layers, are all still different:



is known as either hard or soft…

Hard wheats – contain lots of protein making them stronger (think young GYM BUNNY, always drinking protein shakes for strength), this is best for baking bread- giving a loaf a large volume and fine texture

Soft wheats – which don’t contain as much protein (think normal me&you) – best for making pastry, cookies & crackers

and then there is Durum wheat– this is very “hard” wheat and has the most protein (think ultimate BODY BUILDER) – best for making pasta



No folks…this is NOT the sweet corn vegetable you eat for dinner…

This is field corn – you can see the difference by looking at the corn kernals – field corn will have a DENT in it, and sweet corn will be rounded with no dent.

Corn is great for making WRAPS and Mexican TORTILLAS – yum!

Nerd Alert:

Tortillas are made from corn that is soaked and cooked in an alkali solution, it is then drained and ground on a stone mill into a dough called MASA, this is then shaped cooked on a hot griddle – sounds amazing!



a pH higher than 7



Spanish for dough



is known as either long-, medium- or short-grain…

Long grain – contain a lot of amylose, making them light & fluffly when cooked, they also separate easily (think Della & Basmati rice)

Medium– contains less amylose, making them more sticky and cling to each other but can still become fluffy (think Jasmine rice)

Short grain – contains less amylose, making them stick together (think “risotto” Arborio rice)

Then the more familiar rice like brown, white, parboiled or precooked rice, is just rice that goes through 7 different processing methods.

Nerd Alert:


a small starch molecule made up of a single long chain



White rice – is usually enriched, so DON’T rinse before or after cooking because you will wash away the added nutrients

Brown rice – this is the least processed form, is rich in vitamins & minerals

Parboiled rice – this is a long-grain, that was soaked in water, drained & then heated (steamed), then dried & milled. Although it takes more time to cook, it breaks less during cooking & remains separated, keeps its shape and it keeps its texture longer during cooking – making it good for SOUP!

Instant/Precooked rice – this is also long grain rice that has been cooked, rinsed & dried through a special process. It doesn’t need a lot of preparation, it also has a better taste & texture than other regular milled rice.

Rice flour – made from grinding the grains that are broken during milling. Good for baked goods, pancakes, waffles and baby foods as it is resistant to syneresis in frozen and thawed products & can be used to replace modified starches. It can also reduce oil absorption up to 70% in donuts & 60% in fried chicken. (this is a great NON-ALLERGENIC option to wheat flour).

Nerd Alert:


food that has nutrients added back to it that it may have lost after processing



when water oozes out



1. Rice needs no more than twice its volume of water.

2. Regular rice increases up to 3 times its volume when cooked. 1 half teaspoon per 1 cup raw rice is usually enough seasoning – unless you like it salty!

3. When boiling rice – rice is added to 2.25 times its volume of boiling water, brought back to the boil, then covered & finished over a reduced heat – cooking time is usually 15 to 20 minutes (parboiled rice will take a little longer)

4. Brown rice takes about twice as long as white rice to cook, because it is cooked for longer we add slightly more water (due to evapouration) 2.5 times the volume of rice should be fine.

5. To shorten the cooking time of brown rice, you can soak it in water for an hour, this softens the bran.

6. Precooked rice is super quick! Add boiling water to the rice, bring the mixture to the boil, remove it from the heat & allow it to stand until the grains look swollen.

7. Cooking rice in stock or herbs also adds great flavour!



Think – spaghetti, macaroni, noodles, vermicelli, shells & couscous!

The main ingredient in pasta is SEMOLINA

Nerd Alert:


a flour coarsely ground from durum wheat
This is a high-protein grain containing more carotenoid pigments than wheat flour used in bread, this gives pasta its yellowy colour.



1. Cook by adding to 2 to 3 litres of boiling water to 240g of pasta.

2. The more water you use the less likely the pasta will stick together

3. Pasta should be added gradually so that the water doesn’t stop boiling.

4. Pasta usually increases 2 to 2.5 times after cooking.

5. Overcooked pasta will become soft, sticky & break.

6. To keep pasta warm, place it in a colander/strainer & place it over hot water – the steam will keep it warm and moist without cooking it

7. Cooked pasta can also be refrigerated & then boiling water poured over before serving.

So…Now that you have all the tips you need

there’s nothing stopping you from having a GREAT night of ITALIAN pasta or SPANISH rice – get cooking! :)

Megan Potgieter

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