Black rice – also known as purple rice, longevity rice and forbidden rice – is nutritionally dense, texturally delightful and as enjoyable in sweet dishes as savoury. It’s easiest to prepare when soaked overnight. Soak 250g of rinsed black rice in two litres of cold water. The next day, cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Once you’ve mastered this basic process, it’s time to experiment. My absolute favourite breakfast is the South East Asian dish of sticky black rice (made with glutinous black rice), which I like to keep simple with salted coconut milk and fresh mango. Cook the rice according to packet instructions or the method above, including a generous pinch of salt. Once cooked, flavour generously with sugar; you can use palm sugar for a traditional Thai flavour, or soft brown sugar as an alternative. Serve drizzled with warmed coconut milk that has been salted to taste (you just want a gentle savouriness, like with salted caramel desserts). I sometimes like to add a hint of cardamom as well. Serve with cubes of fresh mango on the side, or your favourite seasonal fruit.

Black rice is also a delicious and visually striking alternative for rice salads. Dress with a zingy red wine vinegar based dressing and toss with wedges of multi-coloured heirloom tomatoes, finely sliced red onion and cubes of avocado. The vibrancy of the veggies look even more appetising in contrast with the dark purple rice.

You can find black rice and glutinous black rice in traditional Thai grocery stores, Asian supermarkets, and sometimes in conventional supermarkets. To make sticky desserts, like the one mentioned above, be sure to buy glutinous black rice. Regular black rice can be substituted but is better for savoury dishes as an alternative to your usual rice choice. Use it in burritos, stuffed capsicums and hearty risottos (especially delicious with fried wild mushrooms).

This originally appeared in Vegetarian Living NZ, which is NZ Vegetarian Society’s seasonal magazine.