For some strange, inexplicable reason, the last time I went grocery shopping I picked up a packet of brown rice. It wasn't entirely unintentional. I did think to myself "I could really use some brown rice". Although now, in hindsight, I'm not sure why.
Brown rice isn't something that ever features in my home cooking, or in the food that I grew up with. In fact, there was a funny period where my mother bought a packet of brown rice (probably overcome by the same strange conviction that I had about needing to try it) and my dad HATED it.
I have to point out that my dad can't stand rice that's not cooked thoroughly enough. He much prefers mushy to anything resembling al dente. Brown rice is unmilled and has an outer bran layer which remains chewy and relatively hard, regardless of how much you cook it.
Despite all this, I DID find myself wanting to cook and eat some of this stuff. It couldn't have been out of curiosity, since I've tasted it before. I suppose my body is just becoming more health conscious and tries to point me in the right direction.
When rice is polished to become white rice, the layers with lots of vitamins and good things are removed. The theory is, when choosing brown rice, those nutritious elements are retained. It's also termed wholegrain rice. If you're familiar with how wholegrains are good for you, everything should make sense now.
I knew I wanted the brown rice to be cooked in a salad, rather than as a substitute for normal rice. I happen to like the nutty, chewy quality of the rice but more so when it's eaten by itself than when it's used to accompany dishes.
Chicken and Brown Rice Salad with Honey Soy Dressing
Serves 2 (for mains) or 3 (for sides/snacks)
- 100g brown rice
- 80g cooked chicken (I just poached a chicken thigh fillet with some herbs, you can use barbecued chicken or anything really)
- 1 small green apple, diced with core discarded
- 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp sultanas, soaked in hot water until swollen and drained
- 1/4 cup mixed nuts and seeds
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1-2 tbsp honey (depending on strength of honey and how sweet you like it)
- 1 tsp lemon juice
1. Cook the rice in plenty of salted water, or according to the packet instructions. It should take about 25-30min to cook. You don't have to wait for the water to absorb completely - you can just drain it and then rinse in cold water once it's tender. Remember you just want the inside to become tender because there'll always be a chewy outside.
2. Wait for the rice to cool down completely - I spread it out on a plate to let excess water evaporate and prevent sticking. When it's cooled, fluff it up a bit with a fork.3. Make sure all your other ingredients are also at room temperature. Prepare the sauce in the time being by mixing together the honey, soy and lemon juice. Taste test and adjust to suit your taste.4. Toss all the ingredients together: rice, apple, onion, sultanas and chicken. Sprinkle your nut mix on top. When it's evenly mixed, add the dressing bit by bit and stir to coat evenly. Don't overdress or everything will be too salty.5. Serve cold as a side or as a healthy lunch. I like it cold like... straight from the fridge kind of cold. Store in the fridge in an airtight container - you can make the salad the night before and pack it for lunch the next day.
This salad has a really complex mix of flavors and textures. The sultanas are plump and sweet. The apples are crunchy and tart. Chicken provides a bit of body to the salad - if you wanted to go lighter or use this salad purely as a side, you can even opt to go without chicken. The onion must be diced finely to prevent it from overpowering the dish. Mixed nuts are crunchy, tasty and nutritious. Bringing all this together is the brown rice which is chewy with a slightly nutty taste.
I think this salad would also be fine without any dressing - just let the flavors of the ingredients work together. These kinds of salads are a great way to throw together nutritious ingredients and end up with a tasty and fulfilling meal.