After enjoying a perfect sandwich and sipping the alkalizing soup prepared by our contributor and chef Johnnie Collins we crave a simple yet special dish that is the perfect company after an extended summer day. In the following video we follow Johnnie to the market where he picks the right ingredients and spices for his wild rice salad and talks about Berlin food scene before discussing the idea and influences of one of his favorite dishes.
What is special about the ingredients of the rice salad?
Wild rice is a great source of fibre, needed to maintain a healthy gut and has a great nutritional profile against white rice being higher in proteins and an excellent source of antioxidants. It is very easy to cook, lightly boiled in water flavoured with Celtic salt, star anise, kefir lime leafs and garlic and could be eaten just on its own with a little olive oil and a few fresh herbs. Like with all my cooking it is not just there for nutritional purposes but has an amazing nutty flavor, which carries the spices very well and cooked correctly has a lovely bite. The cooking of the rice is key to the dish, it will take a good 30 – 45 mins to cook the rice properly but you must keep trying the rice until you get it to how you want, as I say I like mine with a nice bite.
WHAT INFLUENCES ARE COMING TOGETHER IN THIS DISH?
One place in particular, India, which I travelled to whilst at university, was behind the creation of this salad. The combination of spices, the way the mustard seeds are added to the hot oil to give the initial flavouring and the sounds and smells that come whilst cooking the dish, are all directly influenced by experiences of Indian cooking. Particularly the cooking I saw on the streets where Indian men and women would sit on the side of the road with a simple gas burner and one large pot. It has a special place for me as it was one of the first dishes I created and one that has been eaten by my friends and family many times and was one of the first salads I put on the menu at The Store Kitchen – it works either on its own or as part of a wider meal, going nicely with a meaty white fish or spiced roast organic chicken. It also is a reflection of my cooking philosophy, with a main focus on flavor and origin of produce, but always with one eye on the nutritional side, and this was why I started using wild rice to begin with.
When is the rice salad eaten best?
I have to say that it often tastes best when left covered at room temperature overnight and then eaten the next day, something I often find with Indian dishes. It allows the different flavours more time to get acquainted with each other letting the individual spices mellow a little and merge to create a more singular flavor, although the mustard seeds still shine through. Don’t refrigerate it overnight as this will make the wild rice toughen up, but you can easily re-heat it the next day or serve it cold as a salad at lunch with some friends.
Can there be alterations made and if yes which ones?
As I mention in the video, you often read in books and see in cooking films how balancing spices is a very tricky thing to do. I don’t believe it to be so true – you can substitute any of the spices in the recipe below and as long as you are careful about not adding too much, the gentle cooking process and the layering of flavours will result in a lightly spiced salad that tastes delicious. The spices are all friends! In addition I often add a number of different veg instead of the peppers – chard stalks are a nice one, with the uncooked leaves added right at the end and wilted by the heat of the rice.
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- 350g Wild Rice, washed well and then drained
- 2 long red bell peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped
- 1 large white onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped, plus an adiitional 2 cloves left whole but crushed lightly
- 3 kefir lime leaves (bay would also work)
- 1 diced bird’s eye chili
- 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon each of ground cumin, ground coriander, ground cumin
- 2 star anise
- 10g chopped coriander leaves
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Olive Oil
- Celtic Salt and cracked black pepper
- Herbed kefir
- 250ml kefir (home cultured if possible, or use greek yoghurt as a good substitute
- 1 spring onion
- 1 small green chili
- Fresh coriander plus any other herbs that need using
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper
- Place wild rice in cold water (on a rough ratio of 3:1 water to rice) with the crusded whole garlic cloves, 1 star anise, kefir lime leaves and large pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, turn down heat and cook the rice to taste (usually 30 45 mins until you have the right texture). Drain and set aside.
- In a large heavy bottomed pan, heat oil until almost smoking, turn down heat and add mustard seeds, they should pop after a few seconds. Add the star anise and onion, sweat for 10 mins then add the garlic, chili, and peppers and continue to sweat on a low heat for a further 15 mins – you want the onions and peppers to release their natural sweetness. Season with salt and cracke black pepper.
- Turn the heat up to medium, add the ground spices, stir continuously for a minute or so and then add the lemon juice. You could also use a glug of crisp white wine for acidicy instead – you will just need to cook out the alcohol for a few minuts on a high heat. Keep the mixture cooking on a low heat, giving time for the spices to become acquainted with each other.
- Combine the rice with the spiced onion mix and give the flavours time to develop, it can be served warm pretty much straight away, or left overnight and reheated or served at room temperature. A final taste and seasoning with salt and pepper before serving is always advised
- To make the herbed kefir – combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside
- To serve – place the rice ina large bowl for sharing with a big dollop of the herbed in the centre – simple !
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Make sure to try Johnnie’s other recipes – the alkalizing soup and the perfect sandwich he prepared previously and exclusively for hey woman!.
Growing up in the English countryside, Johnnie Collins learnt the value of using seasonal, home grown or locally sourced produce from his mother. He begun cooking and entertaining for his friends and has since created, managed and cooked at numerous pop-ups, supper clubs and restaurants in London and beyond. He studied at the College of Naturopathic Nutrition and moved to Berlin in October 2014 to cook in The Store Kitchen.