the definitive guide to salad – part 3 grains, nuts & seeds

natural almonds freekeh

If you think salad is all about leaves and dressing, prepare for your world to change for the better.

I’m a big fan of brown short grain rice. Something about it’s subtle nuttiness and healthy connotations.

In general I don’t cook rice frequently but with my latest supermarket discovery that may change. I’ve been experimenting with par cooked rice pouches that just need to be microwaved for 90 seconds for perfect steamed rice. Significantly more expensive than cooking your own – definitely one for the time poor.

Since becoming a minimalist, I’ve sold my microwave and pretty much don’t miss it except for when I want to defrost. You can heat the rice in the bag in a pot of simmering water but I haven’t tried that just yet. What I have discovered is that you can soak it in boiling water for 30 seconds and it’s all ready to dress and turn into a rice salad.

Am sure it’s not as nutritious as cooking your own, but so much simpler and just as tasty.

If I had to choose between rice and barley I’d pick barley more often than not. I just LOVE it’s chewy unique texture. For salad use it anywhere you’d normally use rice. Also brilliant in soups and hearty slow cooked dishes.

I used to cook couscous all the time and couscous salads were always on high rotation during Summer. It’s been way too long. Super simple to cook and flavour – just pour over boiling water or stock and a little oil or butter then stand for 5 minutes or so before fluffing with a fork and dressing.

freekeh / bulgur
I’ve grouped these together as they are both types of cracked wheat and can pretty much be used interchangeably. Freekeh differs in that the wheat is picked green which apparently means superior health benefits. For more on freekeh see super freekeh. Both require soaking or simmering. Bulgur is the traditional grain for Lebanese tabbouleh.

par cooked brown rice shelled pistachios

Not technically a grain, but seems to fit in best here. I don’t think I’ve ever made a pasta salad. Must be something to do with scarring from those terrible supermarket deli salads smothered in mayo. But please don’t let my prejudice infect you. I do remember seeing Jamie Oliver make a picnic pasta salad that was fresh tomato based and looked delicious. Would love to hear if anyone has a pasta salad recipe they recommend.

I love nuts. They’re wonderful for adding some flavour and crunch and beefing up your salad to make it more substantial.

There are pretty much three decisions when it comes to nuts and salad. Which nut to use? Roasted or raw? Chopped or whole? Pinenuts are a big favourite, but I’m also very fond of pistachios and almonds. Roasting enhances the flavour.

I rarely think to put seeds in my salads but they can be lovely. The Japanese are big on sesame seeds. Pretty much everything I’ve said about nuts applies here.

brown rice & almond tabouleh

brown rice & almond tabbouleh
serves 3-4

I’ve used short grain brown rice. By all means use whichever rice or grain you like best.

I’ve made this really substantial by adding a heap of almonds and serving with natural yoghurt. If you were serving as a side dish you could easily get by with a quarter of the nuts or ditch them all together.

Lovely with fish or lamb, it’s a brilliant little BBQ salad as it takes hardly any time to whip up if you use my rice tip (see above) and it’s happy to sit around in the fridge while you hang out with your guests. Makes a great work lunch.

I was too lazy to toast my almonds last time I made this and I actually really liked the subtle sweet nutiness. Feel free to toast if that’s your preference.

2C cooked brown rice (approx 250g / 9oz)
I bunch mint, leaves picked
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4C lemon juice
1/4C extra virgin olive oil
1C whole almonds (approx 100g)
pita bread, to serve, optional
natural yoghurt, to serve, optional

If using precooked rice, place in a bowl and pour over boiling water. Allow to stand for about 30 seconds then drain and rinse well with cold water to cool.

Chop off and discard about half of the parsley stalks. Then finely chop the remaining bunch with the rest of the stalks and leaves. Chop mint. In a large salad bowl stir herbs and onion through drained rice.

Combine lemon juice and oil and season well. Dress salad and toss though nuts.

brown rice & almond tabouleh


The stonesoup definitive guide to salad.
Part 1 – Leaves
Part 2 – Dressings
Part 3 – Grains, Nuts & Seeds
Part 4 – Bread
Part 5 – Legumes (tune in next Tuesday)

sake restaurant & bar review eat|shop|drink
5 ingredients. 5 minutes. 5 meals. Simple Noodles at Zen Family Habits

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