persian rice salad

persian salad

I’ve jazzed up this Taste recipe a little, by adding subtle flavour and colour (read: slightly more work) to the rice. The addition of cashew nuts is a bonus for the salad and gives it a crunchy kick. The original recipe did say to serve this warm with mixed salad leaves but I prefer it the next day, served cold.

An overnight rest lets the spices permeate, making a sweet, aromatic and texturally pleasing rice salad. This would be an excellent side dish for BBQs, or a packed lunch. This recipe just cries out for leftover turkey – don’t they say they best part about Christmas are the leftovers?

Juggle with the proportions, there are certainly no hard and fast rules when it comes to salad. I increased the amount of rice because I love my carbs and added olive oil as basmati rice can be dry when chilled.

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Persian Rice Salad

Serves 4

2 (roughly 500g) skinless chicken breasts
500ml chicken stock
2 cups basmati rice
1 brown shallot or small brown onion, finely diced
2 tbsp oil
1 cardamon pod
pinch of tumeric
2 cloves
a few peppercorns
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/3 cup sultanas
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 unsalted roasted cashew nuts (or toasted pine nuts)
bunch of mint leaves

Bring 1 litre of water to the boil in a pan. Slide in the chicken breasts and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and poach for 12 minutes. Leave to cool in the liquid for 5 minutes. Remove chicken and shred. At this point, you can reserve the liquid and concentrate it by boiling it down and using this as the chicken stock for the rice.

Meanwhile, wash the basmati rice and leave to drain in a sieve.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Bruise the cardamom pod with the side of a knife and add to the oil. Add the diced shallot, turmeric, cloves and peppercorns and fry till aromatic. Watch the heat carefully as to not burn the spices – if the spices are so aromatic warming up in a pan, imagine what the house will smell like if they burn! Once the shallot begins to colour, add in the drained rice. Stir the rice in the saucepan over the heat until all the rice grains become opaque. The rice will lose its glassy finish and the surface colour will have a matte finish. This should take a couple of minutes.

Put the rice and spices into a rice cooker. Fill the cooker with chicken stock to the 2 cup mark and cook.

One the rice is ready, tip it into a large bowl. Add the shredded chicken, cinnamon, chilli powder and sultanas. Toss.

Pour over the lemon juice and olive oil to the rice mixture, and combine thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.

If eating immediately, pick the mint leaves and add them too the salad, as well as cashew nuts.

Otherwise, add the cashews and mint leaves closer to serving, as over time the cashews lose their crunchiness and the mint is prone to oxidising. Add as little or as much mint you prefer – the more mint leaves the better, they somehow accentuate the taste of everything in the salad!

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