Brown Rice Salad
My memories of brown rice are always associated with my friend Radhika’s mother.
Her kind, gentle countenance smiles at me from across the years and miles of memories and I see her plying me with some more of her delicious food – the typical very savoury Andhra vantulu (cuisine) tradition, the vanakaya kura (spicy slender eggplant), bendakaya vepudu ( fried okra) the allum pacchadis (ginger chutney) podis, sambars and a hundred things that lined up the large thalis like fielders in a cricket match with Pakistan bowling in the last innings! This was their daily spread, and since I was there as a guest, Auntie would fry some garelu (vadas) or papads.
More than 30 years later, I still remember this feast, and have tried (not without considerable success) to replicate her dishes several times. But one thing I can’t replicate is the very tasty, unpolished rice that came from the paddy from their farms in coastal Andhra. This fragrant and nutritious brown rice is called mudi biyyam or dampudu biyyam. The hull is preserved and that retains the vitamins, minerals and most importantly- the flavour. And to think of it, we pay to have the nutrients removed from the white rice we eat!
The Vedula family made it a point to eat their own home-grown produce, but Auntie would make an effort to make some white rice. However, once I tasted this unpolished brown rice, there was no going back.
Course after course, from pulusu (soup) to perugu (yoghurt), the steaming hot, pale brown rice with a distinct flavour and aroma of its own, was scooped onto our plates. A dollop of homemade neyi (ghee) was splashed onto it before you could say no (why would you?) Sated and sleepy, we would retreat to the upstairs rumpus area or the lovely library and dream away like any teenagers would, without a worry.
The unpolished rice is an integral part of those happy memories. So when I first moved to Australia and saw brown rice in the supermarkets, I eagerly bought a large bag, but soon realised that it couldn’t recreate the magic of Aunties ‘annam’. How I disposed of the rice, is fodder for some more stories….
Too coarse, easy to go rancid, hard to cook and not half as tasty, this brown rice -now bought in a very small pack - is redeemed best a salad like this.
Warm Brown Rice Salad
1 cup long grained brown rice, soaked for 20 minutes
A handful each of - finely sliced celery, diced red onion, shredded lettuce, shelled garden peas, roughly torn rocket leaves (use your imagination and resources!)
2 tbsps each - diced carrots, diced red capsicum, finely sliced green beans
A small block of low salt Danish feta (this is soft and creamy) roughly crumbled
2 tbsp black currant or any fried fruit
Balsamic vinegar dressing (you can make your own, with vinegar, olive oil and herbs)
Salt and pepper as desired
1 tsp olive oil to stir fry vegetables
Cook rice in water with a pinch of salt, using the absorption method. Heat a pan and add the olive oil and quick stir-fry the beans, red capsicum and carrots. Remove within a minute to retain the crunch. Combine all the vegetables with cooked rice. Add rocket, currants and crumble feta into the salad.
Pour the dressing on top, toss and serve warm or cold.
Makes a great lunch to carry to work and can be made the previous night and stored in the fridge.