None of us need any more drama in our lives (yeah thanks, 2020) but I can't say the same for salad. A good salad is a journey in flavour, texture and drama, namely colour. No salad competing at the Christmas table wants to be the wallflower, so here I've thrown in black rice and flowers for texture and dramatic colour. It also tastes ridiculously good which is always a bonus.
1kg pumpkin, skin-on, cut into even-sized wedges
1½ tbsp olive oil
3 sprigs lemon thyme, leaves pulled
1 cup black rice
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
5 cups water
Lemon thyme dressing
2 small seedless lemons, peeled, halved
leaves from 3 sprigs lemon thyme
100ml olive oil
1½ tbsp maple syrup
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
225g green beans, trimmed, blanched and refreshed
½ cup cranberries
¼ cup dried pomegranate arils (or fresh if you can't find the dried version)
½ cup Persian-style feta
2 cups mixed salad leaves and herbs (I used basil, mint, dill, salad burnet and spinach)
½ cup edible flowers, coarsely torn (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional). Toss the pumpkin wedges with the olive oil and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle over the lemon thyme leaves and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes or until the pumpkin is just soft and caramelised. Allow to cool. Remove the seeds (reserve for another use if you like) and cut the pumpkin into large bite-sized pieces.
2. While the pumpkin is cooking, add the rice, stock and water to a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes or until the grains are soft, with a lovely residual nutty bite. Strain and set aside to cool.
3. For the dressing, add the ingredients to a blender. Blitz for 1 minute or until the dressing is thick and emulsified. Season generously with salt and pepper.
4. Add the rice to a large bowl. Add the salad mix ingredients and gently toss to combine. Add the pumpkin pieces and gently toss once more, being careful as the pumpkin is soft. Add to a serving platter and drizzle over the dressing (you will have a little left over). You want enough to coat as people help themselves, without drowning the flavours of your glorious salad. Season again with salt and pepper, scatter with edible flower petals, if using, and serve.