One of my Mum’s quirkiest habits is her tendency to want to provide for my sister and me, usually just before we’re about to part ways. Let’s be clear: when I say provide, I mean give us stuff, usually random things that we neither want nor ask for.
Let’s say I’ve been home for a few days and am about to head to the airport. On seeing me, suitcase in hand, some maternal instinct will kick in which causes her to begin rifling through the nearest drawer, looking for offerings. “Do you need some maple syrup, honey?” “How about these socks- they’re very warm!” I’m not sure when this behaviour started, but it’s definitely intensified since my sister and I both moved to the UK. I’ve travelled trans-Atlantic with everything from Ziploc bags of smoked paprika to spare bread knives in my luggage. And yes, I’ve just realised how weird that sounds.
But the woman comes by it honestly, I can now attest. Last October, after a week’s stay in Canada for a friend’s wedding, Andrew and I spent a night with my maternal grandmother before flying home to England. After she’d called us a cab, she began to go through her kitchen cupboards, looking for travel-friendly foodstuffs with which to send me on my way.
Though my suitcase was full to bursting already, I was touched and quite amused, so saw fit to accept a small package of Canadian wild rice. Incidentally, this wild rice is one of my mother’s favourite items to push, too- I wonder if it’s to do with that family’s prairie roots, or else an effort to provide me with a “taste of home” while so far away.
Luckily, I have something pretty awesome to do with all that rice. While it’s generally thought of as a cold weather ingredient, most suited to casseroles and turkey-dinner sides, my favourite thing to make with wild rice is actually a salad. This recipe is adapted from one I first tried at my part-time job, a best-seller there and damns near addictive, let me tell you. It’s not just the flavour, but the smorgasbord of textures here: nibble rice, crunchy veg, chewy fruit and even (if you remember to put it in- I don’t always) crisp nuts.
As well as being delicious, my favourite rice salad is also easy to prepare, and it keeps well in the fridge. But you must include the wild rice here; all brown rice and it just wouldn’t be the same. Let’s hope you’ve got a pushy Canadian Mum or Grandma, then.
Favourite Rice Salad
serves 4, more as a side
- 2/3 cup brown rice
- 1/3 cup wild rice
- 1 red pepper
- 1 green pepper
- 2 stalks celery
- 4 spring onions
- 100g dried apricots or dates
- 100g cashews (optional)
- 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- Cook the two types of rice according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, chop the vegetables, dried fruit and nuts (if using) to a consistent size- I like everything to be in 1cm chunks. Put in a large bowl and mix in the vinegar and olive oil.
- When the rice is cooked, rinse in cold water and drain well. Add to the bowl with the vegetables and dressing, salt and pepper to taste, and serve.