Summer rice salad

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone.

Lin Yutang

A week’s holiday in the middle of summer has been an opportunity to rest and relax before the busy year really begins in earnest. It’s been stiflingly hot in my part of the world, so hot that a very fit man in his early thirties died of heat stroke over the weekend while biking in a nature reserve just north of Brisbane. So outdoor projects have been taken off the agenda, besides keeping the garden alive by watering in the late afternoon. Instead, I have been reading, finishing a quilt and spending lots of time in the kitchen. Creating new recipes is something that relaxes me, and this season has been one of trying to incorporate more seeds and nuts into my diet, both for the health benefits and for their taste. This rice salad was today’s experiment. The fresh peas, asparagus and zucchini sit atop a bowl of brown rice, seasoned with rice wine vinegar and a little olive oil, and stirred through are pepitas, sunflower seeds and black sesame seeds. I ate it on its own, but this salad would also be delicious as a side with grilled salmon.

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Serves 2 as a meal, or 4 as an accompaniment

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup pepitas
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup peas
1 large zucchini, sliced into thin strips, long-wise
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into short lengths
2 tablespoons soft feta cheese

Bring the water to the boil in a medium sized saucepan. when boiling add the rice and stir gently. Cover and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes until the rice is cooked, but still retains some bite. Check the rice occasionally and add a little more water if it begins to stick to the bottom of the pan before it is cooked. Drain the rice and turn into a medium sized glass bowl. Stir through the rice wine vinegar and olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Leave to cool slightly. Meanwhile, rinse out the saucepan and bring more water to boil. Add the zucchini, asparagus and peas, and cook for 1 minute, until tender crisp and bright green. Stir through 1/3 of the vegetables into the rice and then place the rice into a serving dish. Top with the remaining vegetables and scatter over the feta. Best eaten warm or at room temperature.

Spicy roasted pumpkin

Now in my part of the world it is hot, hot, hot, and very steamy. It is not the weather for roast dinners, and snuggling beside a fireplace, or eating soup and thick crusty bread. But as I am a fanatical lover of pumpkin, this season is where salads with warm roasted pumpkin come into their own. I love pairing pumpkin with peppery rocket, Persian feta and pistachios, or with cous cous, spinach and currants, or with segmented oranges, cranberries and romaine lettuce. This is an excellent recipe to give a spicy edge to your roasted pumpkin, and is oh so quick and easy to pop into the oven while you cool off in the pool.

Serves 4 – 6 depending on the oomph of your salad and the appetite of those partaking

1 kg Kent pumpkin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, whole
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
seat salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 180 C. Slice the pumpkin into medium sized wedges, leaving the skin on, but scraping out the seeds and membrane. Place a sheet of silicon paper onto a baking tray and arrange the pumpkin in a single layer on the tray. Drizzle over the olive oil and then evenly scatter over the spices, turning once to cover both sides. Season well with the salt and pepper and roast for 35 – 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and eat hot, or warm in a robust salad.

It’s hot in Brisbane but it’s Coolangatta – summer salads for celebrations

It’s so hot here – unreasonably hot for November, and as my thoughts turn towards upcoming end-of-year and Christmas celebrations, I’ve gathered a collection of my salad recipes for inspiration and to help me to keep cool in the kitchen. There’s something here for all tastes, and each one has a little twist to lift it above the usual fare. I hope there’s some inspiration here for  you too.

And if you are wondering about the title of this post – It’s hot in Brisbane, but it’s Coolangatta – it is the title of a real song, popular in the 1950s. You can read about it, see the fabulously kitsch sheet music and listen to the original recording here.

Rice 2 resizedCranberry and wild rice salad

Potato salad 2 resizedPotato and pea salad with hazelnut dressing

Carrot salad 2 resizedCarrot salad with coriander, chili and sesame

apple salad5 resizedRocket salad with apple and parmesan

nectarine salad3 resizedNectarines, prosciutto, mozzarella and mint

brie salad1 resizedBrie and rocket salad with pomegranate dressing

farro with pumpkin1 resizedMaple roasted pumpkin with farro

Fassifern tomatoesTomato and bocconcini salad with a beautiful basil dressing

Spiced carrot and brown rice salad

I’ve been having an enforced rest following some surgery, but today felt like some creative cooking – reading the recipe books and magazines given to me by my very thoughtful colleagues the inspiration. Our oldest is back at home with us for a time and as he is a coeliac, gluten free cooking is required at our place. So this combination of nutty brown rice with warm spices, sharp, fresh coriander and sweet carrots makes an excellent salad that is healthy and filling and delicious for all of us. I’d recommend serving it with some grilled chicken, Greek yoghurt or labne, and a crisp white wine.

 Serves 2- 4

1 bunch Dutch carrots, tops trimmed, and washed (or use 5 – 6 carrots, peeled, and sliced in half lengthwise)
finely chopped coriander stalks, from 1 bunch of coriander
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup brown rice, rinsed
2 cups water
1/2 cup currants
1/4 cup mixed seeds (I buy mixed seeds from the health food store)
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
1 bunch coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Lemon dressing
1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 200C. Place carrots, coriander stalks, olive oil, cumin, smoked paprika, honey, and 1/2 teaspoon turmeric in a bowl, season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and mix well. Spread out in a single layer on a baking tray lined with silicon paper and roast for 25-30 minutes, turning two or three times, until and tender. I wanted to serve the salad in the roasting tray so as not to lose any of the pan juices, so I used a white enamel tray that could go straight to the table. Set aside to cool.

While the carrots are cooking place the rice, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, and 2 cups water in a saucepan, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, 30 – 40 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Check it now and then to make sure the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Leave for 10 minutes with the lid on before uncovering to cool to room temperature. To make the lemon dressing, put all the ingredients in a small glass jar and shake well. When the rice is a t room temperature pour the dressing over and stir through. Add the currants, seeds and fresh coriander and mix well. Push the carrots to one side in the roasting pan, if you are serving from it and add the rice mixture. It will soak up any of the spiced juices in the pan. Alternatively place the carrots on a serving platter and drizzle over the juices, and pile the rice on the side.

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Sweet chilli and sesame dressing

I eat a lot of salad. A lot. It’s part of a significant change in my diet to improve my health and lose weight. And I really love salad, so it’s been an enjoyable refocus, and an opportunity to develop creativity with salad and dressing ingredients. This dressing is a riff on a Jamie Oliver dressing and it’s full of flavour and spice, and some heat. A little bit goes a long way, so it’s not a big deal that it’s not super low in calories. I paired it with a salad of gem lettuce, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, purple cabbage, mixed seeds, and crunchy noodles, but it and works well with all sorts of salads that have an Asian twist.

2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce (I love Roza’s Gourmet Sauces, sweet chilli and ginger sauce)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
juice of 2 small limes
1/2 teaspoon white sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon black sesame seeds

Put all ingredients in a small glass jar with a lid and shake well until combined. Taste, and add a little salt, to taste. Keeps for a week or so in the fridge.

Maple roasted pumpkin with farro

There is something very satisfying about autumnal food and this maple roasted pumpkin with farro has a richness and depth that is just right for cooler nights and warm days –  the essence of my favourite season. Summer has had a very long tail this year, and I am very much enjoying the cooler weather we have recently been experiencing. My vegetable patch is still producing late summer vegetables and herbs (there will be a Japanese eggplant recipe in the near future!), and salads are still firmly on the menu, but this dish is a foretaste of the pilafs, casseroles, tagines and soups I will be making in the coming months.

There’s a dissertation in the waiting regarding farro, freekeh and spelt, and how these ancient grains, which were commonly eaten in the past, lost popularity, and then, in the beginning of this century, rose again in the popular consciousness as healthy, delicious, and worthy of eating. Richard Cornish, from Good Food gives a condensed version of this story better than I ever could.

He says: “Centuries ago, Western civilisation had a midlife crisis and dumped a whole lot of wholesome and dependable grains for a newer, more glamorous species from the same genus – namely, wheat. We mostly stopped growing grains such as einkorn (Triticum monococcum), spelt (Triticum aestivum spelta) and farro (Triticum turgidum dicoccum) in favour of modern wheat varieties such as durum (Triticum durum). Freekeh is made from modern wheat varieties that are harvested green then roasted. Einkorn is still grown in parts of Europe on poor soils. In France, it is called petit epeautre, or ”little spelt”, and in Italy, it is called farro piccolo or ”little farro”. It can be cooked in a chewy pilaf or tossed through a salad with beans and tomatoes. Farro, sometimes called emmer, can be cooked as one would steam brown rice and added to salads, but is delicious made into farrotto, similar to risotto, or simmered in chicken stock with sauteed carrots and celery to make soup. Spelt is high in protein and quite commonly ground into flour and used in baking. Depending on how the grains are processed, they may require soaking before cooking.

I love the flavour and the texture of farro and really like cooking with it. I can usually buy farro from a good deli or some health food stores. If you can’t buy it, you could easily use brown rice as an alternative. Also, if you have a coeliac in your home it’s important to know that farro is not gluten free, so brown rice would be an excellent subsitute in this case.

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Serves 4
1 kg pumpkin, de-seeded and cut into 8 wedges. I recommend Kent or jap pumpkin, but butternut pumpkin will also work.
2 red onions, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 cup farro
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
1/3 cup currants
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley and/or chives
100 g baby spinach leaves
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 180 C. Line a flat baking tray with silicon paper. Lay the pumpkin wedges, onion wedges and garlic cloves in a single layer on the baking tray. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle over the maple syrup and return to the oven for 5 – 8 minutes, or until the pumpkin is well cooked and is a bit crispy and caramelised from the maple syrup. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile bring 3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock to the boil and add the farro to the pot. Cook until the liquid is absorbed and the farro soft, but with some bite still remaining, about 20 minutes. Tip the farro into a medium sized bowl and pour over the remaining olive oil and the lemon juice. Stir gently but well to combine. Add the pistachios, currants and herbs and mix well. To serve, place two wedges of pumpkin on 4 plates. Divide the onion and garlic among the plates. Toss the spinach with the farro and place to one side of the pumpkin. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, and a little extra virgin olive oil, if desired. Serve as a vegetarian meal, or as a heart accompaniment to grilled lamb or chicken.

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Roasted cauliflower with pomegranate, almonds and mint

I have my colleague Rachael to thank for planting the seed that became this recipe. She has been extolling the deliciousness of roasted cauliflower and brussel sprouts for some time, and although brussel sprouts are a bridge to far, I was attracted to the idea of roast cauliflower, and thought it might get a look-in, although previously only eaten with the accompaniment of cheese sauce at our place. I thought that a pairing of roasted cauliflower and pomegranate would be delicious. Little did I know that this is a classic combination in the cuisine of Israel. After looking at a simple host of recipes for roasted cauliflower and pomegranate salad I came up with my version, which has the seemingly always included cauliflower, pomegranate, mint and tahini, but some variations that suit my taste. I hope you enjoy!

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Serves 6 as an accompaniment

1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
60 ml olive oil
1 teaspoon each of dried mint, oregano and cumin seeds
sea salt and black pepper
3/4 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly torn
3/4 cup fresh mint, roughly torn
1/3 cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped
1 pomegranate
1/4 cup currants

Dressing:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons greek yoghurt
1 tablespoon tahini

Preheat oven to 200 C. In a medium sized glass bowl gently toss the cauliflower with the olive oil and the spices, and season well with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking tray lined with silicon paper, and roast for about 40 minutes, until the cauliflower is well cooked and a little charred in places. While the cauliflower is cooking make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together until smooth, and season with a little salt, to taste. Cut the pomegranate in half and de-seed one of the halves. There are lots of methods to do this. I recommend turning the half upside down over a small bowl and squeezing it firmly to dislodge most of the seeds and juice, and then invert the skin and flick out the remaining seeds with your fingers. Messy but delicious. Cut the other half into wedges for serving with the salad. When cooked, take the cauliflower out of the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Combine and gently toss together the cauliflower, parsley, mint, almonds, pomegranate seeds and currants. Serve straight away with the dressing and the  pomegranate wedges passed separately. Great on its own or with grilled fish or lamb.

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Summer greens with cous cous

“A well-made salad must have a certain uniformity; it should make perfect sense for those ingredients to share a bowl.”

Yotam Ottolenghi

This delicious salad sparkles with summer flavours and textures, and I do believe that it makes perfect sense for all of them to be there; in the bowl, on the plate, and in the mouth. Crisp salad leaves, fresh herbs, lemony dressing and summer green vegetables, sweet and fragrant. We have a vibrant and very productive herb garden so at our place the large quantity of herbs is easy to gather. They really make the dish, so don’t scrimp on them. I like to pass soft feta cheese separately, so that people can add what suits their palate.

Serves 6 – 8:
250 g Israeli cous cous
500 ml chicken or vegetable stock
3 small zucchinis, or 1 medium sized zucchini, chopped into small pieces
150 g sugar-snap peas, whole
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 5 cm lengths
3 cups mixed salad leaves (about 100g)
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped fresh herbs – chives, dill, mint, flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil (I use a lemon infused olive oil)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
150 g soft feta cheese

In a medium sized saucepan, bring the chicken or vegetable stock and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to the boil over high heat. Sprinkle in the cous cous and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook, uncovered for 10 – 12 minutes, or until the liquid is almost all absorbed. Take off the heat, cover, and sit for 3 or 4 minutes. Turn out onto a large plate and separate the grains gently with a fork. Leave to cool. In the same saucepan (saves washing up!) bring  lightly salted water to the boil. Add the zucchini, peas and asparagus and cook for 2 minutes. Drain, and refresh by running under some cold water. When the cous cous is at room temperature toss it in a large bowl with the chopped herbs, the remaining olive oil and the lemon juice. Season to taste with the sea salt and pepper. Gently fold in the cooked vegetables and the salad leaves. Serve straight away, with the feta passed separately. This is really beautiful with pan fried fresh snapper or salmon and a glass of pinot gris.

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Carrot salad with coriander, chilli and sesame

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According to Tennyson, in the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love; mine, however, turns towards thoughts of salad. I love them all – green salad, Greek salad, Caesar salad, Cobb salad; salads with roasted beetroot, salads with  spinach and cous cous and quinoa; Asian salads, potato salads and Middle Eastern salads. I love the simplicity of tossing beautiful fresh ingredients together to make a delicious salad. It’s quick and easy, and as the weather warms up, is the perfect accompaniment to whatever we are having for dinner. It also usually means less time in the kitchen and more time for relaxing in the cool of the evening.

This salad takes the humble carrot and makes it a star, by adding chilli, coriander, lime and sesame, and a tangy citrus dressing. It was a spectacular spring day today, and every mouthful was a pleasure as we ate it for lunch, with the sun shining, a light breeze in the air, and us in short sleeves and bare feet for almost the first time this season. We counted our blessings, grateful to live in such a beautiful place.

Carrot salad 4 cropped resizedServes 4

Salad:
500g carrots
1 long red chilli
3 kaffir lime leaves
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 bunch coriander (cilantro)

Dressing:
1 orange
1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
sea salt and black pepper

Carrot salad 1 resizedUse a vegetable peeler to peel long, thin ribbons from the carrots, discarding the core. Slice the chilli in half, remove the seeds and the membrane and then slice into very fine strips. Finely slice the lime leaves. Pick the leaves from the coriander and discard the stems, or save to make a curry paste. Place the carrots, chilli, lime leaves and coriander into a large bowl. In a small non-stick pan toast the sesame seeds until very lightly golden. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the sesame seeds for the dressing, and add the remainder to the other ingredients. Remove the zest from the orange and add to the salad. Just before serving add half the dressing and toss well. Turn on to a serving plate or bowl, with the remaining dressing on the side.

To make the dressing, juice the orange and lemon, add the other ingredients plus the remaining sesame seeds and whisk together until well combined. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

Heirloom tomatoes with a simple dressing

Unless you have tasted really beautiful tomatoes you might think this salad would be dull, flavourless and not worthy to grace your table. So many tomatoes are like that – lacking in flavour, almost chalky in texture, watery and unappealing. And with this dish there is nowhere for the tomatoes to hide. There has, however, been a resurgence in recent times of what people call “old-fashioned” tomato varieties, and ripening tomatoes on the vine, so it is possible to get tomatoes that taste as tomatoes should, with a little careful selection. I found these beauties in my local fruit shop and leaped at the opportunity to make this salad. I think they are the beefsteak, or perhaps ox-heart variety, but the fruit shop just called them heirloom tomatoes. It’s really important to serve at room temperature, and as it only takes about 5 minutes to make that should be no problem. Whatever you serve this salad with will be a hit. If you are in the northern hemisphere and coming to the end of summer, I can imagine some grilled prawns (shrimp), crusty bread and crisp salad greens, eaten while sitting outdoors in the early evening. If, like me, you are living in the southern hemisphere, eagerly anticipating warmer weather, I am thinking of some grilled lamb chops, with hummus and pomegranate molasses drizzled over the top, plus cous cous with currants and almonds for an outdoor lunch on the deck. Enjoy, wherever you are.

Serves 4 as a side dish

2 large heirloom tomatoes, plus 1 beautiful, vine ripened tomato
a handful of basil leaves
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
a dash of good quality red wine vinegar

Using a microplane, or the finest side of a box grater, grate the vine ripened tomato into a small bowl. Strain through a sieve and pour the pinkish juices into a small jar with a screw top lid, discarding the pulp and the seeds. You =should have a couple of tablespoons. Add the olive oil, the red wine vinegar and a good pinch of salt, screw on the lid and shake vigorously to combine. Slice the tomatoes quite thickly and lay them on a serving plate. Just before serving pour over the dressing and scatter over the basil leaves. You can make ahead of time, but don’t refrigerate the tomatoes, as they will lose lots of their aroma and flavour if served cold.