My past experiences with cooking brown rice have been unpleasant. Since I have been growing up to cooking rice using a rice cooker and not any other way, I’m not a fan of methods which requires cooking rice over stove i.e absorption method. So I thought I could do the same with brown rice. Coupled with my disregard to the instructions on the packet, let’s just say if I were on Hell’s Kitchen, the result will earn me a good yelling and have the frowning Gordon Ramsay staring at me in disgust, swearing the “f” word in the meantime!
After a couple of misses, I have realised that while you can get away from cooking white rice in the rice cooker, it won’t work with unmilled rice. Well, not for me anyway! The main problem was I tried adding brown rice into white rice in effort to introduce the former into my diet slowly. Obviously both rice requires different length in cooking times, and therefore never turned out perfectly – mostly brown rice still remained “crunchy”. While I love food to be crunchy in general, rice is not what you wanted to be crunchy. In fact, I find it as horrifying as cakes sink in the middle. After all, partially cooked rice is just crying INDIGESTION if you decided not to waste it!
If you’re a true brown rice lover, you may be able to eat it with stir frys or curries. Unfortunately, I can’t say I am one for I prefer it best in salads. This roasted pumpkin brown rice salad is somewhat a happy accident as I was looking to add a healthy dish amongst my butter laden Christmas eve dinner. As I was going through the menu with my visiting friend, Adam, he was like ” uhmm…I think we need a salad!”. Oh of course, I was so busy in planning my meat, potato dishes and dessert, I have conveniently left out the “salad”. “No surprise there” was the look Adam gave me. Anyway, looking through my pantry only to have found 3/4 packet full of brown rice which I bought ages ago, Adam has suggested that we can make a salad from it and he showed me how to cook it PROPERLY this time. Since then, I’m totally smitten with brown rice – it is simply great in salad.
Roasted Pumpkin Brown Rice Salad
(A fuss free cooking recipe)
3 servings as a light meal; generous portions for 2 people
- 1 cup brown rice (I’ve used basmati brown rice)
- 1/4 Japanese pumpkin, peeled & diced to 1/2 inch sized cubes (roughly)
- A handful of mixed salad leaves or baby spinach
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground paprika
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil / vegetable oil
- Sliced roma tomatoes (optional), if not toasted pine nuts and almonds work really well too!
- 1/2 shallots; 1/4 brown or spanish onion
- Juice of 1 1/2 lime (yielding about 1/8 cup)
- 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Some freshly ground black pepper
- A pinch of salt
- 2 tsps maple syrup / golden syrup / honey
(1/8 cup is not a common measurement but this is just to give you an idea on the quantity. The general idea is the lime juice should be sufficient to macerate the onion in order to mellow its “harshness” and I prefer to keep the lime juice to olive oil ratio as 1:1 for this salad bearing in mind this is not the usual vinaigrette ratio. For this portion of rice salad, I reckon you need no more than 1/4 cup of dressing as anything more would be overdress! Remember this, an overdressed person is acceptable, an overdressed salad is not! )
- Cook brown rice according to packet instructions (I think it helps to add about 1 tsp of oil while cooking the rice to keep the grains separated). Set aside to cool.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius / 392 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Spread diced pumpkins onto the tray. Sprinkle ground cumin, paprika, salt, pepper and drizzle some oil over the pumpkins, mix evenly. Bake the pumpkin for 20 minutes or until tender. Then, set aside to cool.
- To make the dressing, extract the juice from one and half limes into a measuring jug (preferable glass). Thinly sliced the onion and let it macerate for a couple of minutes in the lime juice. Then add salt, pepper, maple syrup and olive oil and whisk until it emulsifies into a creamy sauce.
- Lightly toss the brown rice, roasted pumpkin and half portion of the dressing. Then add a handful of salad leaves with the remaining of the dressing on to the rice salad – this is to dress the salad leaves lightly before mixing with the rice salad.
- Add sliced tomatoes before serving – which is totally optional. Alternatively, you can add toasted pine nut and/or almonds for some crunch. This can be served at room temperature, cold or as warm salad.