Salad days: Cooling Rice Salad

by Ailbhe on July 3, 2010

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I can hardly believe we’ve had more than 2 weeks of sunny weather and Wimbledon has been going with hardly a rain break at all. What’s going on? Worrying, I mean we all like a good moan and although it has been humid and, dare I say it, a mite bit too hot for freckly little old me, it’s not been drought-inducing heat. What’s more the air has been heavy with the sweet smell of barbecues. Shock!

We’ve been lucky enough to have had a few evening barbecues here in our new patio area which has given me the opportunity to create salads and side dishes to accompany the charcoal grilled stars of sheftahlias, sausages and fish. One of my very favourite dishes to accompany a barbecue is a good rice salad. It took me a bit of practice to get the rice grains all loose and separate as I like it. In the past, while the flavour may have been fine, the rice often stuck together here and there in stodgey lumps. And do you know what the tip is? Cook the rice, then lay it out on a baking tray to cool as you go about making a dressing and chopping the rest of the ingredients. Yes, I realise you may all have known this but I didn’t for ages and of course it’s so obvious. I mean who hasn’t taken some leftover rice from the fridge (we ALL do leftovers, yes?) and break it up into single grains before frying for lunch. Never sticks right? Well, for some reason I never made the connection. Sure, I rinsed some freshly cooked rice under water and that works in a kind of a way but the rice can lack flavour and it’s wet! Not great to add a dressing to. No, simply tip the freshly cooked rice onto a tray, gently spread out, but don’t squash, and leave to cool off. I help the cooling by turning it over every now and then. Anyway that’s how I’ve been finding rice success the last few years but before that… tasty gluey bits appeared throughout the salad bowl.

I have a few variations of rice salads depending whether it’ll be the main dish or eaten as an side dish. This is more a side dish so that the flavours are fresh and light. The dressing is the most important ingredient and while you don’t want to swamp the dish remember that a cool rice salad needs some umph to prevent it from being too bland. Add the dressing when the rice has only cooled down a bit but preferably not cold so that the grains absorb some of the flavours.

Cooling Rice Salad

Serves 4

The amounts of ingredients given are guides, increase the proportion of ingredients you like, swap ingredients you don’t like but most of all cook the rice according to the instructions and then allow to cool as described above and you’ll be rewarded with a perfect rice salad.

245 grams basmati rice
375 mls water
(a ratio of 1 measure rice to 1.5 measure water)

175 grams fresh small peas or frozen peas
2 tbls chopped coriander
2 tbls chopped parsley
1 tbl chopped mint
1 red pepper chopped
1/4 green pepper chopped
1 stick celery finely sliced
1 carrot diced
2 small spring onions finely sliced
75 grams toasted almonds


olive oil
sesame oil (just a tiny amount)
lemon juice
a good wine vinegar
garlic clove, crushed
salt & pepper

Rinse the rice under running water in a sieve until the water begins to become less cloudy (this washes away the sticky starch). Put rice and water in a saucepan, put diced carrots and peas on top. Because you are adding so many vegetables to the rice as it cooks add an extra 10 mls water and bring to the boil. If you were just to cook plain rice use the 1:1.5 ratio.

Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat right down. Put on a well fitting lid and leave on the lowest heat for 10-12 minutes. Check on it towards the final 2 mins just to see if you might need more water (because vegetables have absorbed some) or more time. But you don’t want to keep taking the lid off and releasing the steam. And if you do add water be sparing with it. You are aiming for fluffy rice not water sogged rice which has no bite! In fact I often turn my rice off once it boils and leave it sitting there in residue heat while I cook my curry or whatever. Rice just needs to be warm not hot in my opinion and it almost always cooks to perfection by the time the main is ready or I just add a splash of water and turn up the heat till done.

Spead the rice mix out on a tray as described above and get to chopping the remaining ingredients. Add them into a large salad bowl.

Make the dressing as per a classic vinaigrette, that is one part vinegar or lemon juice to 3 parts oil. Use more or less lemon or vinegar as you like but keep basically to this ratio of sharp to oil. Add the garlic, season and some honey to sweeten. Whisk well. I make my dressings in sealed jars (or old dijon mustard glasses which often come with a cap) so that I can keep any leftover dressing in the fridge.

When the rice has begun to cool pour over some of the dressing and mix in gently. Then when the rice is cool enough to separate easily into grains add to the salad bowl. Mix and add more dressing if needed, sprinkle with the toasted almonds, stir briefly and serve.

If made an hour in advance the flavours have time enough to mingle and develop before the herbs begin to wilt. Goes really well with good quality sausages or kebabs and a side of tzatziki. Yum.


Leave a Comment

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nic July 9, 2010 at 16:02

Loving your blog, the photos are awesome!
This rice dish looks great for the heatwave we are having.


2 Ailbhe July 11, 2010 at 11:37

Thanks Nic, always appreciate when someone takes time to say nice things! : )


3 Aisling Young July 13, 2010 at 23:34

Thanks Ailbhe, I have a BBQ this weekend and you’ve solved the other half of my problem. I’m going to do your rice with Helen’s

and I’ll report back on both! Now all I need is the sun to return.



4 Ailbhe July 13, 2010 at 23:49

That’ll be an excellent combination. Let’s hope the sun comes out!


5 Ann July 16, 2014 at 11:58

Recipe sounds lovely, can’t wait to try it.


6 dj July 11, 2015 at 12:39

I hit subscribe and see all the coding garbage. Hmmm not cool but I like the rice recipe. So I book marked you and will check in…subscribe situation looks no bueno. Maybe I’m hitting something wrong.


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