I originally made this grain salad to mark Chinese New Year, but it can be enjoyed any time of the year. I used Camargue red rice (red being an auspicious color in Chinese culture) and included a few of my favorite Oriental ingredients: asparagus, plum sauce, sesame oil and chilli.
Camargue Red Rice is a short-grained rice cultivated in southern France. Once cooked, it is sticky and slightly chewy with a distinct nutty flavor. In this recipe it can be replaced with brown rice or wild rice which may be easier to find. White rice won’t work because it’s flavor is too delicate for the Spicy Plum Sauce Dressing.
For the best flavor serve this salad at room temperature – make sure you remove it from the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving.
CAMARGUE RED RICE AND ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH SPICY PLUM SAUCE
(Serves 6 as a side dish)
4 Tbsp Chinese Plum Sauce
1 plump garlic clove
Generous pinch of sea salt
Half tsp red chilli/cayenne powder
1 Tbsp of a mild flavored oil, such as walnut oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
8oz (250g) uncooked Camargue red rice/brown rice/wild rice [8oz (250g) of uncooked rice should make around 21oz (600g) of cooked rice]
15oz (450g) asparagus
Good handful of cilantro/coriander leaves, finely chopped
3 plump scallions/spring onions, finely sliced into rounds
1 tsp sesame oil
- Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Prepare your asparagus by discarding the lower third of the stalk. Cut the rest of the asparagus into 2-3inch pieces. Place in an oven-proof dish, toss with 1 tsp of sesame oil and a pinch of salt, and place in the middle of the oven to roast for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove it from the oven and allow to cool.
- Boil the rice in a large pot of well-salted water. Camargue red rice takes between 30-35 minutes to cook – check the instructions on your package. When cooked, drain and set on a plate to cool.
- To prepare the Spicy Plum Sauce dressing, take a plump garlic clove and either grate it using a fine grater OR mash it up with a generous pinch of sea salt using a pestle and mortar. In a screw-top jar, put the garlic and all the other dressing ingredients and shake well. Taste and adjust, if necessary. It has to be quite spicy otherwise the taste will be covered by the strong flavor of the rice.
- When the rice and asparagus are at room temperature, combine them together in a large salad bowl along with the cilantro/coriander leaves and scallions/spring onions.
- Add the dressing and toss until evenly mixed.
- Refrigerate until ready to eat. Best served at room temperature, so remove from the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving.