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I’m sorry it’s taken until Christmas week to share this recipe with you. If you’re a regular in these parts, you’ll already know I’ve been somewhat preoccupied doing a little thing called publishing a cookbook. And I’ve been completely blown away by how happy so many of you are about that! The support you’ve all given the Combi Steam Christmas book has far exceeded my hopes for a first self-published attempt, and I cannot wait to bring you the next book, Easy Combi Steam Meals, in 2018.
You might also be sorry I didn’t share this wonderful Christmas-inspired rice salad earlier, once you discover how great it is. If I’d been more forthcoming, you too could have been taking it to every social gathering all month long. But you’ve still got the big day to come, and this is well and truly worthy of inclusion on the table. To be honest, though, I’ll be making this right through the year. It’s far too delicious to save just for festive season outings.
Festive season ingredients
If there’s a definitive list of rules about Christmas ingredients, I am wilfully ignoring it here in favour of my own spin on seasonally appropriate inclusions.
This salad says Christmas to me because it includes tart-sweet dried cranberries, a Santa season staple. Mixed with a bright, zingy dressing, pistachio nuts, lots of fresh herbs and feta cheese, it looks so festively red, green and white that I don’t know what else I’d call it.
There are any number of other things you could add to this dish. Roasted cubes of pumpkin would be nice, as would blanched green beans or asparagus. Or, if you wanted to make it more of a main meal affair with extra protein, some shredded cooked chicken or leftover turkey would be a great addition.
Why steam brown rice instead of boiling?
I’m a big fan of the nutty, slightly chewy texture of brown rice, especially in salads. It can stand up to being dressed and mixed with other ingredients without turning mushy, as white rice sometimes does. And I love cooking brown rice in my steam oven because its flavour is so much better than when boiled.
My unscientific studies in cooking rice show that steamed brown rice is far superior to boiled for a couple of reasons: firstly, the fairly obvious one that when you steam it, you aren’t draining the cooking water and washing away a lot of flavour and nutrients. The other reason is that the steamed grains remain more intact and hold their shape better.
Definitely try this salad if you’re in need of one more side dish for Christmas day. You can make it in the morning and finish dressing just before serving, so it’s very low stress. And the leftovers will keep well for a couple of days in the fridge, perfect for those quieter post-Christmas meals.
Happy steam oven cooking, see you here again soon.
Steam Oven Christmas Rice Salad with Cranberries, Pistachios and Feta
Serves 8 as a side dish
Don’t shy away from the quantity of herbs here. You want them to act as the leafy component of the salad and their freshness should offset the earthiness of the rice.
The harissa paste I use in the dressing is quite garlicky and spicy. If yours is less so, or you can’t find harissa, feel free to add a minced clove of fresh garlic and some freshly chopped red chilli.
If you want to make this ahead of time, you can do it right up to the end of step 3. Add the herbs, nuts and cheese shortly before serving.
Leftovers will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge, although the nuts will soften over time.
400g (2 cups) medium grain brown rice
60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
60ml (1/4 cup) rice wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar would be a good substitute if you don’t have any)
2 tsp ground sumac (it’s not the same, but the zest and juice of a lemon will do as a substitute)
1 tbs harissa paste
100g (2/3 cup) dried cranberries
1 large bunch parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
1 large bunch mint, leaves picked and roughly chopped
50g (1/2 cup) shelled pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
100g Persian feta cheese, crumbled
1. Mix the rice with 750ml (3 cups) cold water in a shallow stainless steel tray. Put in your steam oven and set to 100°C/212°F, 100% humidity. Cook for 40-45 minutes until the rice has absorbed the water and is cooked through. Fluff the rice with a fork and set aside while you get the dressing ready.
2. To make the dressing, whisk the oil, vinegar, sumac powder and harissa paste in a small bowl.
3. Put the warm rice into a mixing bowl. Add the cranberries, pour the dressing over and mix well to combine. Let the rice cool to room temperature (if you’d like to hold off serving for a while, cover the bowl at this point and put in the fridge until about 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve).
4. When you’re ready to serve the salad, add the herbs to the rice mixture and stir to combine. Put into a serving bowl or spread out on a platter and scatter the nuts and feta cheese over the top. Serve at room temperature.
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And if you’re after more delicious combi steam salad recipes, the Salads Index page has plenty. Try the Cauliflower Salad with Dates and Yoghurt Dressing, or for more rice salad goodness, the Red Rice, Quinoa and Pumpkin Salad.