Rice salads are rather old fashioned, and I can't remember the last time I saw one on a buffet table, let alone on a restaurant menu. I think these easy-on-the-budget salads need to be resurrected as family food, albeit with a fresh, light and healthy twist.
What's nice about rice salads is - like couscous and pasta salads - you can ring the changes and add anything you please. I've packed this salad with some of the delicious flavours of the Levant: plenty of punchy fresh herbs for zing, walnuts for crunch, feta for creaminess and dried pomegranate seeds for that 'ping!' factor.
The dried pomegranate seeds (or arils) I used are produced by local Cape company In Our Green Garden, and are available at good delicatessans and at some health shops. They have a lovely acidic, fruity bite, an interesting chewy-crisp texture and are packed with healthy antioxidants. I'm really intrigued by this ingredient - a first in South Africa - and look forward to experimenting with it in the future.
If you can't find these where you live, use fresh pomegranate seeds, or chopped dried goji berries, or cranberries - anything chewy, with a sweet-sour bite. I've used plain long-grain rice here, but you could use brown rice, steamed barley, quinoa or a wild-rice mixture if you'd prefer an even more wholesome, chewy salad.
Avoid Basmati or jasmine rice, or any other rice with an assertive flavour.
Note: when I refer to 'a cup' of chopped fresh herbs, I mean that you've loosely packed the cup with the chopped leaves.
Herby Rice Salad with Feta, Walnuts and Dried Pomegranate Seeds
2 cups (500 ml) long-grain white rice
5 cups (1.25 litres) cold water
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
1 cup (250 ml) finely chopped fresh mint
1 cup (250 ml) finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup (250 ml) finely chopped fresh rocket
1 cup (250 ml) crumbled feta cheese
½ cup (125 ml) dried pomegranate seeds (see my notes, above)
a large head of fresh broccoli
½ cup (125 ml) walnuts, broken into little pieces
For the dressing:
a small clove of garlic, crushed
¾ cup (190 ml) light olive oil
⅓ cup (80 ml) rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
the juice of a lemon
2 tsp (10 ml) Dijon mustard
a large pinch of caster sugar
salt and milled black pepper
extra olive oil
some extra walnuts and feta
Put the rice, salt and cold water in a pot. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and cook at a lively simmer for 18-20 minutes, or until just cooked through (or follow the packet instructions). Tip the rice into a large colander and rinse under cold water for 30 seconds, to remove excess starch. Allow the rice to cool until lukewarm, fluffing occasionally with a fork to separate the grains.
In the meantime, make the dressing. Put all the ingredients in a jug and whisk together until combined.
Put the rice in a large bowl and add the mint, parsley, rocket, feta and pomegranate seeds. Break the broccoli into large florets and lightly grate the outer surface of each (to a depth of about 2 mm) on the coarse teeth of a cheese grater to create 'dust'. Tip the dust into the salad (keep the rest of the broccoli for another dish).
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss very well to combine. Season generously with salt and milled black pepper. Allow to stand for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the pomegranate seeds to soften slightly, and so the flavours can mingle.
Just before serving, stir in the walnut pieces.
Tip onto a large platter, drizzle with a little more olive oil and scatter over some extra crumbled feta and walnuts.
This salad keeps well in the fridge for up to two days, although the walnuts will soften.
Serves 8 as a side salad. Print Friendly