Middle Eastern (and Persian, in particular) food is all the rage now. So much so, in fact, that this vibrant and colourful cuisine has been identified as one of the hotspots for the 2016 food trends. And rightly so! As someone who knows very little about the culture and cuisine of this part of the world, I am completely spellbound by such bold and yet delicate flavours. Also, I love how perfumed and scented some of these dishes are, which turns a meal into a sensory experience, as it should be. Among many sources of inspiration, the cookbook Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour is probably one of those which I am mostly obsessed with at the moment.
The recipe below is my version of her red rice salad, which looks brilliant on paper and offers, to my mind, the right balance of sweetness, tangy citrus juice, crunch and saltiness. However, as it often happens, you need to make do with what you have in the kitchen (or can find in shops without embarking on the trip of a lifetime). Therefore, I had to amend a few details here and there, possibly making the dish a little bit less authentic – but still really delicious.
- 350g long grain brown rice
- 100g green raisins (swap cranberries for a more sour note or normal raisins if preferred)
- 1 red onion, finely diced
- 1 large courgette, sliced lengthways into 5mm strips
- 1 large aubergine, cut into 1cm thick round slices
- 300g roasted red peppers in oil, drained and roughly diced
- 1 x 20g packet flat leaf parsley, finely chopped (leaves only)
- 2 x 20g packet coriander, finely chopped (leaves only)
- 100g toasted sliced almonds
- good-quality olive oil
- juice of 1 1/2 orange
- 2 tbsp clear honey
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- salt and pepper
- Cook the rice as per packet, bearing in mind instructions may vary. Once cooked, drain well and transfer to a large bowl to cool slightly.
- Add the diced onion, raisins, orange juice, honey, vinegar and a good glug of olive oil to the rice, then mix well to combine. Set aside to allow the rice to soak in all the flavours.
- In the meantime, preheat a griddle pan over a medium heat. Brush the slices of courgette with olive oil and grill them for 4-5 minutes or until black griddle marks appear on each side. Transfer to a chopping board and allow to cool.
- Repeat the process with the aubergine slices, cooking them for longer (8 minutes per side), before adding them to the courgettes. Roughly chop the vegetables and add, together with the chopped red peppers, sliced almonds, herbs, salt and pepper to the rice mixture, then give the salad a good stir before serving. Enjoy!