Doing the wild thingOctober 15, 2010
I could spend all day admiring the glossy black spikes of wild rice.
Aren’t they stunning? Like dropped sea urchin spines, or an echidna’s shrugged-off party frock.
There’s something tribal and daring about the look of this rice family’s younger punk sibling, which is apparently not rice at all but a type of aquatic grass, from the genus Zizania.
I haven’t used it terribly often – have you? – but I love the chewy texture and nutty flavour that comes when the grain splits as it cooks. The stuff I buy comes from North America, where several Zizania species are native. Other species are native to different parts of the world (like China), and there is even a completely different wild rice plant, Potamophila parviflora – not available commercially, which is unsurprising given our water problems - native to Australia.
I’m told it takes about 45 minutes of boiling for wild rice to properly cook, and in truth I’ve never really measured the time but just drained it when the kernel splits to reveal the white inside – the shorter the cooking time, the chewier the texture.
You may remember that my favourite quinoa salad, a bastardisation of a quinoa dish by the wonderful Yotam Ottolenghi, includes wild rice. And I’ve used it in stuffing for chicken, with nuts and dried fruit. But I would love to hear how you use wild rice, so do share your ideas.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with an easy rice and lentil side dish I made the other night to accompany some chermoula-barbecued salmon fillets (more on chermoula soon). I just threw this together and liked it so much I’m going to do lentil and rice combinations much more often. We did cheat a bit with this, having brought home a container of seeni sambol, the deliciously sticky, jammy, spicy Sri Lankan caramelised onion sambal from Kammadhenu the other night. This stuff is the business, to add a kick to any dish you like, from soup to rice to whatever. If you can be bothered making your own, I bet it would be amazing. But otherwise you could just fry some onion till very dark and stir through this pilaffy number at the end.
- ¼ cup wild rice
- ½ cup Basmati rice
- ¼ cup Persian red lentils
- ¼ cup currants soaked in red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon seeni sambol or 1 whole onion, sliced and fried till very crisp and dark
- 1 tablespoon torn mint
- sale & pepper
Cook the rice and lentils in three separate pots of boiling water till tender (the wild rice will take up to 45 minutes), then drain and mix.
Stir through the currants, sambol or onion and mint, check seasoning and serve.
Now your turn. What do you do with this dark and spiky little number?