Rice is the ultimate team player with whatever you partner it with. It can be or provide the foundations for a spectacular meal. The following four dishes are a mix of sides and complete meals, although I dare say you could happily fork into any of them with nothing else and be satisfied.
Miso rice and charred greens
This salad is excellent with poached chicken or salmon. You can also cook the miso rice in a rice cooker.
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp white miso paste
5 tbsp sake
⅓ cup mirin
1 tbsp castor sugar
2½ tbsp white miso paste
2 tsp grated ginger
2 bunches broccolini (thicker stalks sliced lengthways)
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tbsp ricebran oil
1 cup sugar snap peas, deveined
1 cup edamame beans, steamed and podded
1 avocado, hulled and sliced
30g mixed microgreens (optional)
Place the rice, stock and miso in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 25 minutes or until almost tender. Remove from the heat and allow to steam, covered, for 10 minutes or until tender and the stock is absorbed. Set aside to cool.
To make the dressing, mix the sake, mirin and sugar in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for about 4 minutes then add the miso and ginger and continue to simmer until thick and caramelised. Remove from heat and set aside.
Toss the broccolini in the oil and garlic. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes or until charred and tender. When the broccolini looks almost done, add the snap peas and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add to a large bowl with the rice and edamame. While the dressing is still warm, add to the bowl and toss to coat. Add the avocado and micro greens and gently spoon onto a serving platter. Season with salt and pepper if needed (be careful when seasoning this salad as the saltiness of miso can vary). Serve warm.
Thai wild rice salad with coconut chicken and caramelised peanuts. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Forbidden rice salad with coconut poached chicken and Thai coconut lime dressing
Make sure you keep the caramelised peanuts separate until ready to serve, so they stay super crunchy. Serve the salad warm or cold.
150g wild rice
650ml chicken stock
½ cup raw peanuts
¼ cup grated palm sugar
400ml chicken stock
400ml coconut milk
2 chicken breasts
¾ cup loosely packed Thai basil leaves
¾ cup loosely packed Vietnamese mint leaves
¾ cup loosely packed coriander leaves
1 red chilli, finely sliced (remove seeds to reduce the heat)
½ red onion, finely sliced
½ cup coconut chips
6 tbsp crispy fried shallots
Thai coconut lime dressing
juice and zest of 2 limes
⅓ cup coconut milk
1 tbsp crushed lemongrass
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp palm sugar, grated
1 tsp finely grated ginger
Bring the chicken stock to the boil. Add the wild rice and simmer, checking it often, for about 45 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Strain and set aside.
Combine the dressing ingredients in a bowl and stir thoroughly until the palm sugar dissolves completely. Set aside until ready to serve.
For the caramelised peanuts add the palm sugar and 3 tbsp water to a frying pan over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves (1 to 2 minutes). Add the peanuts and stir continuously until the nuts form clusters with caramelised sugar (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
For the poached chicken add the coconut milk, stock and chicken breasts to a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until chicken is just cooked through (about 8-10 minutes). Remove chicken with a slotted spoon, cool slightly, then coarsely shred with your fingers.
Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
Add the shredded chicken to a large bowl with the rice and salad ingredients and toss gently to combine. Pour over the dressing and toss again to coat. Scatter with caramelised peanuts and serve.
This comforting rice dish is inspired by the west African favourite, jollof. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Spiced jollof rice
Dusky jollof rice with its insistent and deliberate spicy heat is delicious on its own, or serve as a side to any protein.
For the puree
3 tbsp ricebran oil
5 large ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp ground chipotle
1 tbsp roasted curry powder
1 x 5cm knob ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red capsicum, cored and roughly chopped
For the rice
2 cups basmati rice
2½ cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock if vegetarian)
For the topping
1½ tbsp ricebran oil (or other flavourless oil)
2 brown onions, sliced
⅓ cup slivered almonds
⅓ cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped
⅓ cup flat leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Add puree ingredients to a blender and blitz until smooth. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the puree and bring to a simmer. Gently simmer until most of the liquid has reduced and the sauce develops a sweetness (about 20 minutes).
Add the rice and cook over low heat until the grains begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of stock and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent the grains from catching. If needed, add the remaining ½ cup of stock and cook for a further 5 minutes or until cooked through and the liquid has been absorbed.
While the rice is cooking, prepare the topping. Place a frying pan over low-medium heat, add 1 tbsp of oil and sweat the sliced onion, stirring regularly, until completely soft (about 15 minutes). Remove the onion and set aside. Return the frying pan to the heat, add the remaining half tablespoon of oil and the slivered almonds and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the nuts are toasted and brown. Set aside.
Spoon the cooked rice into a serving bowl. Season generously with salt and top with the onions, almonds and herbs. Serve warm.
Serves 6-8 as a side
This sumac salad is great for work lunches. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Nutty sumac rice
This one gets better with age so don't think twice about letting it sit overnight in the fridge to salvage for your lunch the next day.
Be careful when seasoning this dish – the sourness of sumac can vary and combined with too much salt can take away from the sweetness of the sultanas and creaminess of the nuts.
For the rice
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
2 tbsp sumac
¼ cup good quality olive oil
For the nuts
small knob of butter
¼ cup pinenuts
¼ cup flaked almonds
¼ cup pistachio kernels
¼ cup cashews
For the salad
½ cup sultanas
½ cup mint leaves, chopped
2 heaped cups spinach leaves
salt and pepper, to season
Cook the rice using the absorption method: Place rice in a saucepan with the chicken stock, bring to the boil, then immediately reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15-17 minutes. (Keep extra stock on hand in case it evaporates too quickly and you need a splash more). While still hot, spoon the rice into a large bowl, add the sumac and olive oil and stir quickly to coat the grains. Set aside.
Place a frying pan over medium heat. Add the butter, and once foaming, add the four types of nuts. Stir constantly for about one minute or until the nuts are golden. Add the nuts and the salad ingredients to the rice and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm.