Rice salad

Rice-salad

Here’s another one of those light summery meals that can double as a lovely side to a barbecue, be equally satisfying as a main meal or is also good for lunches the next day. I like to make this when I want to feel virtuous and I need something that’s going to reward me with flavour. We don’t tend to eat a lot of pasta in our house. I find pasta can be sometimes difficult to digest and though I love it, I also need to limit it. However, that’s not difficult because I love rice, having grown up with it as the main staple.

This is really a base recipe, meaning that you can throw whatever you have left in the fridge into it (hurrah!). In its basic form it is vegetarian. In the past I’ve added roasted pumpkin, spring onions, tinned corn, grated carrot – really whatever you prefer or is convenient. For those who need their protein in animal form, tuna is fantastic in it (I’ve used smoked tuna in the past) and I can imagine that chargrilled chicken breast would also be a great addition. However much you change it to your tastes, what is essential is a variation in texture and flavour, and for that reason the sultanas are not optional. They really the wonderful surprise in this salad, sweet and a little chewy, they are what make this dish work.

Cold rice dishes often ask for the rice to be cooked the day before, but what I do in this dish is cook the rice first, fluff it up and let it cool while I prepare the other ingredients – there’s no need to think 24 hours ahead!

1 1/2 cups basmati rice
2 large zucchini
1 red onion
1 Lebanese cucumber
1 head of broccoli
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup sultanas

Dressing

1 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Grinding of black pepper

Serves 4–6 as a main meal

  1. Cook the rice (I use the absorption method which is twice as much water to rice grains) and fluff up leave to cool, re-fluffing occasionally.
  2. Heat you grill pan on high. Trim the ends of the zucchini and slice in half-centimetre strips lengthways. Cut the onion up into rounds, trying not to separate the rings.
  3. Spray the hot grill pan with some olive oil and cook the onions, charring on both sides. Do the same with the zucchini. Roughly chop.
  4. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways and remove the seeds, then dice.
  5. Cut the broccoli into large florets, I also peel the stalk and add that too. Blanch in boiling water for 2 mins and drain and refresh under cold water. The broccoli should still be a little crunchy. Roughly chop being mindful not to break up the florets too much.
  6. Defrost the peas by pouring over some boiling water and leave for 5 mins.
  7. Add drained peas, sultanas and all the vegetables to a large bowl.
  8. Add the rice to the vegetables and give them a mix. It’s fine if at this point the rice is still a little warm.
  9. To make the dressing, add all the ingredients to a jar, secure the lid on tightly and shake.
  10. Pour the dressing over the rice and toss lightly to combine.
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