It’s a pity that old-fashioned rice salads have fallen out of favour, because these are versatile crowd-pleasers that allow you merrily to ring the changes with all sorts of interesting ingredients. This salad features some delicious flavours of the eastern Mediterranean: punchy herbs for freshness, walnuts for crunch, feta for creaminess and pomegranate seeds and sumac for an interesting ‘ping!’. I’ve used plain rice, but this is also good with couscous, quinoa, bulgur wheat or a brown/wild rice combination.
21⁄2 cups (625 ml) uncooked long-grain white rice
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
6 cups (1.5 litres) cold water
1 cup (250 ml, loosely packed) finely chopped fresh mint
11⁄2 cups (375 ml) finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
11⁄2 cups (375 ml) finely chopped rocket
11⁄2 cups (375 ml) crumbled feta cheese
1⁄2 cup (125 ml) dried pomegranate seeds or 1 cup (250 ml) fresh ones (see Notes)
1 large head of broccoli
3⁄4 cup (180 ml) walnuts, coarsely chopped
11⁄2 cups (375 ml) Vinaigrette (p. 186), made with 300 ml oil and 45 ml each lemon juice and white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 Tbsp (15 ml) sumac (see Notes) or
2 tsp (10 ml) finely grated lemon zest
salt and milled black pepper
extra feta cheese and walnuts, for topping
Put the rice, salt and cold water into a pot, bring to the boil and cook at a lively simmer for 16–18 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Rinse the rice in a colander under running water for 1 minute to wash off excess starch, then allow to cool to lukewarm in the colander, fluffing the grains now and then with a fork. Transfer the rice into a large mixing bowl and add the herbs, feta and pomegranate seeds. Break the broccoli into florets and, using the coarse teeth of a cheese grater, grate their upper surfaces to a depth of about 3 mm, to create a pile of green ‘crumbs’. Add these crumbs and the walnuts to the salad (keep the leftover broccoli for another dish).
Mix the vinaigrette with the garlic and sumac, pour it over the salad and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the salad well and allow to stand for at least 30 minutes. Tip onto a platter and scatter lavishly with some extra crumbled feta and broken walnuts.
Serves 8 as a side salad.
This salad keeps well in the fridge for up to 24 hours, but add the walnuts just before you serve it. If you’d like to serve this as a starter, halve the recipe. Dried pomegranate seeds can be found in delicatessens and health shops; if you can’t find them, use chopped dried cranberries. Sumac is a tart, lemony Middle Eastern spice, available from good spice shops.