I have of late gone a bit green-fingered and eco-tastic. As someone who previously couldn’t keep a Spider plant alive, I am now the proud parent of an enormous basil bush, not one but two thriving pots of mint, and a luxuriant pot of thyme. They’ve been adorning my windowsills and flavouring my meals for the last month or so, and I’m now planning to expand into oregano, sage, and perhaps even tarragon!
In fact, so giddy have I become with my faunal success, that I started thinking about just why I buy canned beans and chickpeas instead of dried. Now I’m well aware that using dried pulses requires more than a little forethought and planning, what with the soaking and boiling for hours before they’re ready to eat. This had rather put me off the whole idea of dried pulses, but then I started to think about the amount of canned beans and chickpeas I’ve wasted in my time. I can’t count the number of times I’ve opened a can of kidney beans, used half, then found the other half weeks later, turning blue in the back of my fridge.
So I had a re-think about using the dried variety, and it occurred to me that I generally plan my dinners a day or so in advance anyway, and that if I used dried beans, I could- and do- simply soak and boil the amount I actually need, and the rest stay safely dry in my cupboard for ages. As with the fresh herbs, it saves me loads of money over time. And as an added bonus, they don’t have that slightly metallic weird taste from being in a tin for ages. Now I realise that this is not for everyone, and that-what with growing my own herbs and using dried pulses- I should perhaps go out and purchase a pair of Birkenstocks, but I can’t help feeling rather pleased with myself.
To celebrate my first batch of soaked and boiled chickpeas and my lovely fresh thyme, I decided to make a great big bowl of my Summer Rice Salad. It’s vaguely Mediterranean in intent, and great for barbecues or lunch boxes.
SUMMER RICE SALAD
You will need:
- 2 cups long grain rice
- 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock (I use concentrate but you could use a cube-dont’ waste your homemade stock on this)
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and bashed a bit
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- A sprig of fresh thyme, and two tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- The juice of three lemons, and grated rind of two
- a small bunch of spring onions, chopped (including the green where it’s still tender)
- 1 1/2 cups of chickpeas, boiled and soaked! (or 1 can, well drained and rinsed)
- A small tin of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped (reserve the oil from the jar)
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 1 small red pepper, chopped
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (make it up to the cup level by adding the oil from the artichoke jar)
- Salt and pepper to season
Bring the stock to a boil, adding the juice of 1 lemon, the sprig of thyme, the turmeric, and the garlic clove. Once it’s boiling, add in the rice, cover and reduce heat, and simmer until the rice is tender and has absorbed all the liquid. Discard the thyme and the garlic, and tip the rice into a large mixing bowl to cool. While the rice is still hot, add the spring onions and fork them through the rice. REMEMBER! ALWAYS STIR RICE WITH A FORK, NOT A SPOON. THE SPOON WILL MAKE IT GO CLAGGY.
While the rice is cooling, whisk the remaining lemon juice and rind, the chopped thyme, salt and pepper, and the oil(s) in a jug to make the dressing.
When the rice has cooled add the chickpeas, artichokes, red onion and pepper to the rice and fork through.
Then pour over1/2 of the dressing and fork through again. Refrigerate the rice salad in a suitable container, and a couple of hours later (or when you remember to) add the rest of the dressing and fork through again.