[N]: This salad is inspired by a combination of two salad recipes from two of my favourite chefs Ottolenghi and Nigel Slater. I have tried both their original recipes and while they are extremely delicious they are a bit too expensive for my everyday cooking. I have also tried to incorporate protein, carbohydrates, vegetables and nuts in the salad to make it a more complete meal. It is currently one of our lunch box favourites.
This is a recipe for two and takes about 40 mins.
The carbohydrate and the protein in the salad comes from wild rice and lentils. You can either use the well famed French puy lentil or its less known cousin French style Canadian lentil. The latter is slightly cheaper than the former but works equally well. As you may well know these French style lentils do not lose shape on cooking and hence perfect for making salads.
I start of by cooking 1/2 cup of wild rice and 1/4 cup of the lentils in water. The amount of water is not particularly important as long there is enough to cover them. It should take about 20 minutes to soften the grain and lentil to al dente consistency and 25 minutes if you want it to be softer. When I first started cooking this salad I did cook them separately but I have since figured out that boiling them together in a sauce pan works equally well and saves a lot of time and fuel.
While the rice and lentil is being cooked grate 2 medium carrots and sauté them in a frying pan for about 5 mins. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to the carrot and if you are feeling luxurious add a few non blanched almonds to the mix. Turn down the heat and let it rest in the pan.
Now is the time to take out your salad mixing bowl. Any large mixing bowl should do but if you do salads on a regular basis then a big wooden salad bowl is a good investment. It makes salad mixing much easier, quicker and effective and hence you save on time while improving on quality.
The first thing to add in your salad bowl is about 50 gm of spinach and handful of rocket. If you are not particularly fond of rocket then chopped coriander is a good alternative.
Then chop 5 to 6 dried apricots into very fine slices Add them to the salad along with a handful of sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
If the carrots have cooled down then now is a good time to add them to the salad bowl. The tepid cooked carrot will induce some heat in to the spinach and cook it ever so slightly without compromising the crispness of raw spinach. Mix them lightly to encourage uniform cooking.
Now is a good time to check the softness of the lentil and rice. If you feel they are to your liking then strain them under some cold water to arrest any further cooking. Allow the excess water to drain well.
For the dressing mix 2 table spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar each. It is good practice to mix them in a separate bowl and add salt and pepper to ensure that you have the right balance of acidity. One important thing to remember is that carrot and the apricots will add sweetness to the final salad so try not to make the dressing too sweet.
Now check the wild rice and lentil and if it is not too warm and reasonably well-drained then add it to the salad bowl.
Finally add the dressing and mix it well with a light hand.
You can either serve it immediately or pack it for lunch.