This salad is an unashamed plagiarism from a recently acquired cookbook, ‘Persiana’ by Sabrina Ghayour. Packed full of mouth-watering photos of exotic dishes, it’s a firm favourite. Many recipes feature ingredients that I already (somewhat smugly) own, such as sumac. The book is littered with recipes that I have already made more than once, which is rare – I consider a cookbook a success if I make one recipe from it.
I am normally somewhat underwhelmed by rice salads, and almost flicked straight past this one when browsing through the book. However, given that I have a nearly empty box of red rice lurking at the back of my cupboard, I decided to give it a go. It’s safe to say that I needed to seriously reevaluate my view on the matter after making this salad. The balance of sweet and salty is just right, and the colours and textures compliment each other beautifully. There is also a pleasing balance of warm and cold ingredients – chargrilled vegetables and toasted nuts with cold rice and onions – which works well.
Owning more than one type of rice may sound extravagant (at last count I have 3), but red rice is definitely worth tracking down for this recipe. It has a pleasant nutty taste, and retains its attractive maroon colour, even when cooked. It does take a rather long time to cook though, which I always forget, and am left tapping my fork impatiently against the side of the pan, willing it to cook faster. You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding it, as Sainsbury’s stocks it, proving once and for all that they’re paying attention to the latest hipster food trends. Red rice is staying firmly on my (somewhat hipster) shopping list from now on.
I love breakfast. And I love eating granola for breakfast more than almost anything else. My most devoted and eagle-eyed readers (hi, Mum) will notice that I have already posted a granola recipe, albeit 6 months ago. Given my pretty all-consuming love of granola, I can’t get enough of experimenting with different combinations of ingredients until I get it right. I decided to give the Pecan and Maple Syrup granola that I made before another try. I guess this could be called ‘recipe development’, and is something that I should probably do more of, rather than just chucking random amounts of things together and hoping it works out.
One of the main motivations for making this particular batch of granola was my recent discovery of the many uses for coconut oil. This miracle ingredient can be used both as a remarkably effective facial cleanser, and to cook with, leaving me with the rather pressing dilemma of whether to keep it in the bathroom or the kitchen. I’ve opted for the kitchen, and resorted to occasionally delving into the jar with a cotton pad to smear some on my face. As well as being a delicious start to stir-frys and curries, coconut oil can also be used to make granola. Deliciously crunchy granola at that. My previous recipe used sunflower oil and apple juice, leaving the granola slightly too soggy. The coconut oil helps everything to dry out and crisp up, and perfumes everything with a pleasant coconutty aroma.
I accidentally over-bought on fruit this week. I always get a bit overexcited at the fruit and veg shop in late summer, as it seems as though the days I’ve got left to gorge myself on all the lovely summer fruits are dwindling rapidly. I don’t usually manage to consume 6 nectarines in the brief five minute window that they’re ripe, but I always forget this and buy them anyway. So I decided to make use of their slightly under-ripe state by poaching them until soft in a vanilla and honey syrup. The combination of crunchy granola, tart yoghurt and the silky, sweet nectarines is, as they say in Bristol, ‘gert lush’.
I wanted to make something to stave off the inevitable hunger pangs that reliably hit around 4pm everyday. I have started eating fruit when this happens, which helps to a certain extent, but I inevitably also follow it with random handfuls of dried fruit, nuts and seeds. So I decided to combine these into a snack that would give me energy, whilst also being substantial enough to keep me going until dinner. It is also a desperate bid to get rid of a jar of ground mixed seeds that I have hanging around, which I am not particularly fond of – I end up finding small pieces of hemp seed painfully lodged in my gums after sprinkling them on my morning porridge.
I tipped pretty much the entire contents of my food cupboard into these – beginning with oats and mashed banana, then joyfully pouring in the ground seeds, tahini, peanut butter, cashew nuts, ground almonds, and anything else that needed finishing off. I also found some dried sour cherries hidden behind the pasta that I had bought on a whim several months ago, then completely forgotten about. I opened them and discovered, after chomping down on one rather hard, that they still contained their stones. So I spent a rather tedious hour soaking the cherries in boiling water, then popping out each stone individually.
This sort of thing is all the rage among the nutrition and exercise obsessed, who see them as the perfect ‘post-workout’ snack. There are numerous versions of homemade ‘energy bites’ and ‘high-protein snack bars’ out there, with increasingly ridiculous names – the best one I found was ‘healthy almond joy protein bars’. No joke. This version is raw, which gets a whole host of people on board. ‘Raw’ food is seen as superior by its advocates, as cooking is thought to ‘denature proteins’ amongst other evil things. I’m not prepared to jump on that bandwagon just yet (well, never), but I simply wanted to see if everything would stick together without the need to cook it, more out of laziness than health concern. Turns out it did, although they were much easier to shape into balls than press into bars, leading to the dubious name of ‘seed balls’.