Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Brown Rice, Lentil and Feta Salad (A battle between good and evil)

This was always going to be a toughie. A salad made with some of my least favourite and most favourite ingredients: capsicum, brown rice and lentils being the least favourite, fresh herb, feta, rocket and pine nuts being some of the favourites.

I could hear Homer Simpson singing ‘you don’t make friends with salad’. So I guess it was a good thing that the dozen or so people I had coming to my BBQ were already friends, because I suspected I wasn’t going to love this salad very much, and so I needed to share the love, if you get my meaning (cough: no leftovers please).

Guess whether this is the photo from the cookbook or the real thing?
Now capsicum is one of my least favourite vegetables. I couldn’t tell you why, but there you go. Cold rice is also a big bleugh in my books. Lentils, unless cooked with lots of Indian spices and a bucketload of coconut milk also don’t rate very highly in my kitchen. When I saw this recipe, I knew it would have to be made for a large group of ‘other’ people (not least because it makes about twenty cups of salad).

I had already been to the shops to look for Camellia tea oil (for the dressing) with no joy. I could have got sesame oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil, peanut oil and about ten thousand varieties of olive oil, but no camellia tea oil.

So I Googled it.
Turns out its (other) most common use is to lubricate woodworking tools. Yum.

I took a punt and decided to substitute some good, old-fashioned EVOO.

Three colours uninspired
The recipe allows for tinned lentils to be used to save time. I also took the liberty of using some precooked rice a la Uncle Ben, figuring that it couldn’t possibly hurt, especially since I had no intention of actually eating it.
Did I just write that?
So I drained the lentils and threw them in a bowl with the rice (I just used the whole 450g packet), the chopped capsicum and the sultanas. My husband is a firm believer that fruit has no place in dinner*, so I didn’t hold much hope that he would help eat it either.

Here comes the conflict. The rest of the ingredients are some of my favourites: fresh herbs, feta, pine nuts, rocket. It was going to be a battle of good versus evil: could my love of these ingredients overrule my loathing of Cold-hearted Rice and the Red Yawn?

There was a mild panic that I had no lemons until I remembered I had a lemon tree in the back yard
I then chopped all the herbs and rocket, mixed it through the rice, chopped the feta, dumped a packet of pine nuts (minus the three handfuls I ate before they made it to the bowl) and then stopped in a mild panic.

I was going to need a bigger bowl.

It was about to escape the bowl and take over the kitchen
This recipe, supposedly serving six, was ENORMOUS. Six sumo wrestlers, perhaps.
I squeezed the lemon and added it to my counterfeit Camellia oil for a good shake-up. Can I just stop for a second and say that all those (predominantly male) TV chefs who use their fists to squeeze lemons claiming that juicers are just ‘a waste of kitchen space and one more thing to wash’ are just showing off.

A little Dutch courage at the prospect of eating cold rice

Dress the salad and bung it in the fridge for the flavours to absorb (or battle?) for an hour or so. I had every intention of pulling it out at least an hour before serving, because fridge cold rice is even more woeful than room-temperature rice.

Later that night…

I will admit, the salad looked quite pretty. The compliments came thick and fast and when I tasted it, not only did I swallow the salad, I also swallowed my words. It was awesome. I couldn’t taste the capsicum and the rice merely absorbed the flavours of the dressing. I did end up giving some away at the end of the night… but I made sure I kept some for my lunch the next day.

Adult 'goody bags'
My thoughts

Regardless of whether or not my friends actually liked the salad, I hope they are still my friends after reading that I basically used them as not only guinea pigs but that I deliberately fed them a salad I didn’t even think I would like.

*Funnily enough, one of the authors, Kristen Watts also is not a big fan of sultanas and her inside tip is to added finely diced apple instead.

Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to find more out about the recipe.

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