Rice was used in England’s past mainly for rice pudding. It was also added to soups and stews – especially in poorer households. Then the Indians and Chinese came.
Rice salad does sound a bit boring. But with a bit of imagination it can be turned into one of the very best of dishes as a first course or main one for vegetarians. A large bowl of this salad will make a summer's day feast - and be economical and easy to prepare.
You could boil rice especially for it, but why not cook more than will be wanted for, say, a curry or whatever you normally eat with rice. Then you could start to prepare the following day's salad with the surplus. Add oil right away and stir it in, otherwise the rice will dry out and some grains will revert to their hard state. I favour brown rice for this salad, although it takes almost double the time to cook.
You will need:
Pepper and salt
Let us presume that you have cooked more boiled rice than wanted for a meal. Put what is left over in a bowl and add oil, vinegar (or lemon juice), pepper and salt. Give it a good stir. If the rice is still hot or warm, so much the better. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it when cold.
The next day, add some capers, possibly green peppercorns (I soak black peppercorns in vinegar for a month or more and use a teaspoonful of them) and a chopped gherkin or two. That's a good start - and finish. But there are other items you might like to add, like chopped nuts (I favour pre-roasted cashews, pounded), pine nuts, chopped onion, chopped garlic, chopped parsley or coriander, chopped fresh or dried herbs, chopped fresh chillies, a dash of chilli sauce, pounded coriander seeds, chopped hard boiled egg, diced cucumber, chopped green, red or yellow peppers, chopped cumquat pieces, green raisins, sultanas, olives and on, and on, and on - though not all together.
Whatever you choose to add, you can hardly go wrong. But start with a simple few ingredients - like nuts, capers and chopped gherkins. These give the salad some “bite”. Nuts and peppers will give it added colour and texture.
From plain and simple rice you will now have made a delicious salad. For a main course, decorate it with halved hard-boiled eggs, tomato quarters, sardines or anchovies. Add a few stoned black olives to delight the eye.
To elevate the salad to a much higher plane, skin a small knob of fresh ginger root. Cut this up into the smallest of morsels, or grate it. Add this and stir.
Before you have turned cooked rice into a salad, you might consider saving some as the stuffing for vine leaves, when in season. Soften the leaves with boiling water. Mint will be your main addition to the rice as stuffing, with cooked minced lamb.