Friday, 6 January 2012

Red Rice Salad with Lemon Sesame Dressing

Kristoph and I recently took a holiday to Bali. Actually Kristoph is not as comfortable as I am with the concept of “holiday.” In his view those that say they need a holiday, should re-evaluate their lives, so that they can find more enjoyment in every day. It does sound quite harsh, but perhaps philosophically I see his point.  

So Kristoph called our trip a “reconnaissance” mission. Reconnaissance, because for the last couple of years we’ve been toying with the idea of a move to the tropics. We thought perhaps we could set up home in Bali, live in a rainforest, close to a river gorge, and grow more things to eat. I’ve been (not so subtly) marketing the idea to him for a couple of years. 

As it turned out Bali was far too hot for Kristoph. No sooner had he landed, than he morphed into a quintessentially “hot English” struggling with the powerful sun, and the slightly repressive humidity level. Although we both adored the snorkelling over colourful reefs, battling rivers to reach remote waterfalls, meeting monkeys, and hurtling through jungle tracks on mountain bikes devoid of breaks, the traffic was horrendous, and on a few occasions, soul destroying.

There are over two million people living in Bali, and despite being a huge island – it takes four hours to drive across it (we did it, twice), each year more and more people trade their scooters for cars. Although we’re no longer contemplating a move to Bali, we both loved the diversity of the island’s landscape, and the opportunity it affords the Balinese culture. They grow everything. We visited clove forests, orange groves, coffee plantations, walked through jungles of cacao trees, as well as the ubiquitous picturesque rice patties.

Bali is largely a rice bowl. It’s been grown in Bali for centuries, and the landscape has been slowly and permanently moulded into spectacular green terraces, running like giant steps over the mountain landscape. There’s red rice, black rice, white rice, super fast growing rice, and countless further varieties. Growing rice is hard work though. Every year, lured by the powerful incentive of tourist dollars, more farmers turn away from their ancestral terraces. The land is left, or turned over to developers, as once were farmers, take up employment as drivers, or as hotel staff. 

Despite this worrying trend, others persevere, tapping into the organic market, with its hunger for (organically grown) nutrients and super-foods. Such is the case with Jatihiwih Fragrant Red Rice, harvested annually on the southern slopes of the UNESCO world heritage site, Mount Batukaru. Credited with practicing the most ecologically sound rice growing techniques in Bali, farmers produce red rice, as grown on the slopes for centuries, and still rich in vitamins, minerals, folate and fibre.

And so today’s recipe is my first experiment with this nutty red rice. Keeping to my cleansing approach to food this January, I added it to a salad with steamed spinach and kale, dressed with a lemon, sesame and mandarin vinaigrette.

I hope you enjoy it, here’s the recipe:
(serves two for side dishes)
1 cup red rice (if you can’t find any, use wild rice, or brown rice)
2 handfuls of kale (chopped)
2 handfuls of baby spinach (chopped)

For the dressing:
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
1 shallot (finely chopped)
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 mandarin
Ground black pepper

Step 1: Prepare the rice, as per the instructions on the packet. My red rice requires socking overnight – so this recipe can require some forethought.

Step 2: Prepare the dressing. In a screw top jar place all of the ingredients. Shake them well. 

Step 3: Chop the spinach and the kale. Add the kale to the steamer first. Leave it steam until tender and then add the spinach. The spinach only needs around 30 second. 

Step 4: Mix the rice, together with the kale and baby spinach. 

Step 5: Add the dressing, to taste. You’ll probably have a little left over. Enjoy!               


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