GUEST BLOG #4 - Parveen Ashraf, aka The Spice Queen SaveCo Online Ltd

Food For All 

Just call me Parveen the 'Rice Queen'! 

Part 1 of 3 blogs about healthy nutritious food that is Inclusive,
whether you want gluten-free, vegan, low-fat or low-carb dishes


In all my years of teaching cooking, the most common question I am asked is "how do you cook rice?" In my experience, many people will willingly learn about spices, how to marinate their meats and even how to 'bhun' which is the Punjabi word for a cooking process; to reduce down, caramelise and stir-fry in oil all at the same time. This is a key process and it does not have a corresponding word in English. I remember when my big sister was teaching me to make chicken masala, she would say "have you 'bhun'ed it?"  Without this process, the chicken masala would taste like a spicy chicken casserole. The depth of flavour comes from the bhun'ing process and the word has lent itself to names of certain dishes like Lamb Bhuna, Chicken Bhuna and Prawn Bhuna as made famous by James Cordon on Gavin & Stacey...Oh, my goodness, I seem to have digressed to a different subject, well not really as the recipe for chicken masala is gluten free and fits in well with this week's blog, so I will add a link below. 

O.K. back to teaching people to cook. So as I said, people are happy to learn all the methods and processes of South Asia cooking, however when it comes to rice, many of my students, followers and even friends will just use a boil in the bag rice. There are 2 reasons for this; No1  the restaurant & take-a-way trade hasn't really helped with its lack lustre multi-coloured boiled rice dishes which is usually served with a lonely bay leaf laid on top and No2, rice is the hardest to get right even though it is one of the easiest dishes to make.

So, why I am I talking about rice this week, well because if you have celiac disease and have to have a gluten-free diet this is probably the only real alternative when you are enjoying your Indian curry or masala dish. You will not be able to have naans, chapattis, puris or samosas  as they are all made with wheat flour (which contains gluten). Gluten as the name suggests helps foods maintain its shape and acts like a glue, holding the food together. I have several friends who are gluten intolerant, so when they come for dinner, I always make sure I have a rice for them. Of course you can always buy gluten-free flour, SaveCo sell various gluten-free flour including Eurostar gluten free medium brown chappati atta. As this flour doesn't contain gluten, it takes a little time to master, so just keep practicing. Another flour you can eat that is gluten-free is gram flour as this is made from chick peas, which means you can cook or eat any type of bhajis or pakora. 

So back to rice. Try my easy step-by-step recipe for plain boiled rice.  When you become more culinary confident, try adding a little butter and cumin for flavour, then when you have mastered that you can graduate to making my recipe for Pilau Rice with Peas and Potatoes (recipe is on YouTube). Finally, you can make my recipes for CHICKEN PILAU RICE, sometimes called a Yakhni (chicken stock) Pilau, it's as flavoursome as a Paella and as comforting as a risotto. Then we have the piece de resistance, an authentic biryani - layered saffron rice either made with mutton chops or chicken, served with sliced eggs and topped in caramelised onions, hmmmm - it's divine but this 'queen of rice' needs a whole blog of her own (just like another queen we know!) How to Draw Emojis Winking with Tongue Out Face Drawing Tutorial ...

In closing I will let you into a little secret, my rice don't always turn out perfect either. There are so many factors to take into account, the brand of the rice, style of pan even the type of cooker you use. So, please do not be disheartened if your rice does not turn out right – just keep practicing. Take it from your newly self- appointed 'Parveen The Rice Queen' practice makes perfect. Start with this basic recipe and I am 100% confident it will turn out right 99% of the time. 

Happy cooking and see you on ITV on Tuesdays at 3am, if you cannot stay up, just record me.


Parveen Ashraf


Preparation time:  1 hour to soak rice

Cooking time: 30 minutes  


Serves 4 to 6 people (when served with a curry)




  1. Place rice in a large bowl.  Gently wash through 4 to 6 or until the water runs clear. The aim of the game is to wash out the starch so the rice does not clump together. Watch the YouTube Tutorial.  
  1. Soak the rice for an hour, this will help the rice swell, so you will have beautiful long grains of rice for your finished dish.
  1. Gently transfer the rice to a large pan (with lid). Add 750ml of water, salt and cooking oil, bring to the boil and continue to boil for 2 to 3 minutes. 
  1. Turn heat down to the lowest heat possible, cover pan with lid and simmer for 25 minutes. Leave the rice alone, do not take off the lid to check it, as this interferes with the cooking process.
  1. Once it has simmered take off the lid, the rice will have absorbed all the water. You can fluff up with a fork if you wish.



If you are feeling adventurous, you can fluff up the rice the way I do; Firmly pressing the lid with a tea-towel, turn the pan upside down several times and shake it from side to side. The rice and the bottom should have moved to the top and vice versa. When I makeover 3kg of rice for parties, my husband does this bit. In fact many Asian men can be seen performing this ritual of pan  shaking on Eid and Festivals.

For more recipes and Parveen's cook book, log onto 

PILAU RICE on Parveen The Spice Queen YouTube channel




Thank you to for the beautiful photographs

Chicken masalaChicken pilau riceRecipes

1 comment



I prefer Aashirvaad Sugar Release Control Atta to make healthy rotis. This atta is good and helps sugar control.

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