I'm not a great salad eater, probably because leafy ones tend to splash and I can't stand splashy food! (I adore laksa, for instance, but oh how annoyed I get while eating a bowl of the stuff… And a nice bowl of Vietnamese pho just isn't my idea of a fun night out.) The salad featured in this post is a Duncan original, splash free, and conceived late last year when apricots had come into season. I made it again recently with dried apricots and it was still pretty damn good, if you ask me. Of course, it's in the grain-salad category, so probably won't satisfy the hordes of lettuce-loving saladinos and saladitas.
Wild rice is an expensive and simultaneously over- and under-rated ingredient. On the one hand, I don't see any benefit in those white-rice-plus-a-dash-of-wild-rice mixes which come and go in supermarkets. Eating wild rice straight isn't necessarily a special enough experience to warrant the price either. It costs about A$35/kg at my Vietnamese supermarket, and much more almost anywhere else. On the other hand, the chewy texture and tea-like fragrance can be used with some success in combination with other ingredients to create something out of the ordinary and delicious.
In this salad I've combined wild rice with roasted almonds, oven-dried apricots, preserved lemon, mint and olive oil. It makes a delightful dish of textural contrasts with sour, sweet and herbal all coming through. It's also rather pretty, with the creamy almonds and the deep orange apricots set against the dark grains.
Note: wild rice is in fact a North American grass seed. There are a few different varieties and it's best to follow the instructions on the packet or, failing that, wash and then simmer the wild rice gently, covered in four times its weight in water until the grains start to split but aren't mushy. This is essentially the absorption method for cooking normal rice, but with more liquid. Cooking can take anywhere between 30 and 60 mins.
Wild rice, apricot, lemon and almond salad
|Source: Duncan Markham|
Yield: 3-4 modest serves
|›||150 g||wild rice||‹|
|›||4||apricots - halved and pitted||‹|
|›||100 g||almonds - blanched and lightly roasted||‹|
|›||3-4 leaves||fresh common mint/spearmint - chopped||‹|
|›||3-9 teaspoons||preserved lemon or lime - chopped fairly finely||‹|
|›||extra virgin olive oil||‹|
|›||salt and pepper||‹|
- Place the apricot halves cut side up on a baking tray and bake for 1-2 hours at 60C. The apricots will shrivel and soften a little. How semi-dried you want them is entirely your choice. The cooking process brings out the flavour of the apricot and accentuates both the sweet and sour aspects.
- Cook the wild rice. If there is still some liquid in the pot, drain the rice well. Place in a large bowl. Fluff with a fork to prevent clumping.
- Slice the apricots into fairly thin strips. Add these to the wild rice. Add the almonds.
- Sprinkle with salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Add the mint and some preserved lemon/lime. Pour a good dash of olive oil over the top and combine well.
- Taste and then add more preserved lemon/lime and more salt and pepper as you wish. It's easy to be scared by the lemon/lime, but if you're feeling cautious it is worth adding more than you at first think sensible.