Claypot Rice is the perfect one-pot meal for the solo student eater

Thursday, March 06, 2014

As some of you know by now, I am on Sabbatical leave in Toronto till June 2014.

I am living my life again as a hostel student, something I did experience more than 20 yrs ago as a student in NUS and later, in Trinity Theological College. 

Like every student then, towards supper time, the mental breaks come from packet noodles like Maggie Mee or Indo Mie.  

I can still remember in my NUS days,  the things we did with these noodles: we boiled it, we fried it, we microwaved it and sometimes we even eat it "raw" as a snack, after mixing in the flavoured spices. We added eggs, pieces of chicken, sausages and almost anything to make it different for each meal. We were pretty innovative but there is no denying that after that meal, it was only as satisfying as a packet of noodles could give us. 

I can understand why we ate so miserably. 

Limited budget was one reason. And  a shared pantry will always have limited equipment, fridge storage etc. An open flame is of course forbidden and one has to make do with microwave or the electric heater. Most students have rather rudimentary culinary skills and knowledge, constantly crying for their mama's cooking.  

I should add that students these days may be different. For one, they have access to cooking blogs. :)

Fast forward 30 years later, the pantry here is still rather basic. And it is shared. Budget is no longer an issue but the usual limitations remain.  

There is also something unusual about these few months in my life - I am living alone. This is a game-changer: the cook cooking for himself only. 

To market for one...
To store up food for one...
To defrost food for one...
To cook just enough for one...
To clean up by the same one ...

It is tempting to just eat out when the college refractory is not dishing out meals. The thought though, of bundling up and rolling in the snow or through a chilling cold of -20C can make you think twice. Eating out here is expensive and not always great for what you are paying. 

There has to be an easier way to a satisfying meal for my solitary existence. 

The answer did come, and quite quickly in the form of a claypot, especially once I realised that they cook just as well on an electric heater. It is a perfect one-pot meal.   

So, for many meals now, it is claypot this and claypot that. Some rice, some veg, some meat and the meal is on. The fragrance of the rice is really something else when you cook it in a claypot. In 15 minutes, the meal is cooked as it is a solo-portion. You do not need to mess the cooking stove. You carry the pot into the room. While still piping hot, there is nothing like a hot smokey meal in cold weather, which is good to the last morsel, along with bottom scrapping crust. You eat off the pot. You don't need to mess up another plate. A pair of chopsticks and a soup spoon is all you need. 

I know this is not intuitive but in the olden days, it was very common to use clay pots to cook rice and at the same time, cook something else on it. If you cut your meat into small portions, it will cook very fast in the high heat of the pot. 

Once you get the idea, you can see how easy it is. 
  • Cook the rice first with water (1:1 ratio) for 10 minutes. The rice would have absorbed the water by then. 
  • You place whatever you like on the top of the rice: raw meat, veg, sauces. Close the lid and go for 5 minutes.
  • Enjoy. 
As you are cooking very small portions, the freezer is important to store your food. I buy frozen veg and meat. The frozen meat thaws fast in the microwave. If you are eating the meat up in a week, you can just fridge it. 

These combinations will work well:

Butter rice - green peas/carrots/onions - sausage- pasta sauce
Butter rice - green peas/kale/onions - beef - soy sauce, bbq sauce
Rice in liquid Chicken stock - green veg - chicken/chinese sausage - soy sauce/sesame oil/oyster sauce
Butter Rice - green peas/onions/ginger - lamb - worcester or balsamic vinegar

Or use salmon, pork (tender cut), salad greens, arugula, kale, asparagus, brocolinni, mushrooms etc. Or garnish with spring onions as the veg option (the ones here in Toronto are delicious).

Crack an egg on it. The options are endless once you understand the two-step cooking method.

I think  you are getting the idea. It is really up to you. To make butter rice, a tablespoon of butter goes first into the pot. If you like spices, add some cumin seeds. Then add one cup of rice (basmati will be best) and mix. Then add one cup of water. Close the pot and let it cook for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare your other ingredients. After the rice is cooked and has absorbed the water, add the meat, veg and sauce.  Add some salt please. Close the lid. After 5 minutes, it should be done. If you are using leafy green salads, add them as garnishes just before you serve (yourself). Sprinkle some pepper. As for washing up the pot, just pour in water and let it soak. The rice will come off easily after that. 

Now, if you are not on a budget, how about pampering yourself with some gourmet ingredients? The cooking technique is still the same. 

As for the sand claypot, I bought this for about $7 at a shop at Spadina. It is at about 8-10 inches at the widest diameter and comes wired. Perfect for one or two pax. 

You will be cooking and eating off it for months to come. 

Bought this from Spadina
Beef clay pot rice
With pork sausage and mixed veg
This is really yummy

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  1. Is the smoky fragrance less pronounced in the glazed pot compared to the non version?

  2. As long as the bottom outer part is not glazed, the claypot scent should be strong.

  3. What level of heat should the stove be at? Thanks.

  4. Just read another post that mentioned a small fire.

  5. HY! wow so amazing your recipe and what a wonderful color and presentation.I love it thanks for share.Cooking Food