Turmeric and Chai-spiced Rice Salad with Mint and Yogurt Dressing
Ok, let me ask you a question (hypothetically)…you’ve been invited to a grand banquet of many, many dining tables, each representing the finest cuisine of every country in the world. You’re dressed fabulously (of course) and all your favourites are there. The Italians have already started on the antipasto, the Thais are freshly pounding green papaya for a som tam and there is a distinct smell of melted Gruyere coming from the Swiss. You can only sit down and feast at one table. I know its hard…but what table would you sit down at?
I love to ask this question and follow it up with “…why?” so that I can extract a persons passions for whatever flavours a person is passionate about. Personally, I would run hungrily straight into the arms of Mother India. I have an absolute penchant for Indian food. I love its complexity of flavours and layers and textures, I love its variety, its fragrance and its history. I love to swirl together saffron rice with dahl, paneer, raita, aloo gobi and lime and chilli chutney and scoop it all into a hot puri (like a pro with only the index finger, middle finger and thumb of my right hand). I love samosas, pakoras, bhajis…and don’t even let me get started on the sweets. But (as with most of my passions) I tend to overdo it a little and eat until I swear I will never, ever eat again…right after one more gulub jamun.
Of all the Indian dishes biriyani is one of my favourites. It’s an Indian rice dish that can stand alone as a meal or accompany other dishes like curries, chutneys or fried stuff. I have wonderful memories of mountainous biriyanis, piled high on banana leaves, heavily laden with salted, roasted, sweetened cashews, as well as peas, herbs, spices, shredded coconut, currents and finely sliced tomatoes, all dripping decadently with golden ghee. If it is made well it is heavenly…but Oh. So. Heavy.
I wanted to make a biriyani inspired salad…full with all the flavours of the real thing but light, wayyyy lower in calories and minus all the spice frying, boiling, steaming, stirring, baking, then stirring again kind of complexities that go behind the making of traditional biriyani.
You might have already noticed…I use turmeric a lot. There is a tell-tale mark of turmeric all over everything in our kitchen. Our grater is a golden hue, our knives consistently coated in a thick yellow/orange resin, our kitchen clothes and tea-towels are all stained yellow. All my wooden plates (take note of the one in the top right corner of the picture above) have a distinct yellow staining. Even our bamboo toothbrushes are usually pretty yellow. It gets everywhere and takes a while to come out (if it comes out at all). I even have a designated ‘turmeric free’ kitchen bench top that I reserve for photographing food…every other bench top is stained in yellow. I’m always surprised by just how versatile a spice it is. On our land we are growing two different varieties; a native Australian variety called Cape York Turmeric, its rhizomes eaten and roasted by Aboriginal people. The native Australian varieties flavour is a little different from the South East Asian variety and is less vibrant in its golden colour. The flowers are magnificent…
We are also growing the more common South East Asian variety, known for its cancer curative properties and used widely within all kinds of natural medicine. If you are unable to find/buy/grow your own fresh turmeric you can substitute it with dried turmeric powder.
For the rice…
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 cup organic basmati rice
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 large knob of fresh turmeric, chopped (or substitute with 1 Tbsp of dried turmeric powder)
- 1 large cinnamon quill
- 2 star anise flowers
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cardamon pods
- salt and pepper
- 1 bunch of fresh mixed kale, roughly chopped
- 1 bunch of flat-leafed parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped
- 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 red capsicum, finely chopped
- 1 cup of freshly shelled peas
- 2 large handfulls of pistachio nuts, chopped and toasted lightly
- the inside of one pomegranate
- 1 cup of organic whole yogurt
- 1 bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped
- The juice of one lemon
- 3 Tbsp hemp seed oil
- 1 Tsp cumin seeds, lightly pounded in a mortar and pestle
- Salt and pepper
So tell me please, which table would you sit at and why?