A beautifully fragrant rice salad with Indian spices, summer vegetables, fresh herbs and toasted cashews. Delicious as a meal by itself, and an excellent side dish for BBQ’s and buffets alike.
When I was younger, rice salad always meant the same thing; piles of rice with specks of vegetables chopped into tiny cubes, with raisins, and very little else to provide flavour. This is not that salad.
The rice is cooked in a delectable array of spices that provide a wonderfully warming backdrop to vibrant summer vegetables. I’ve used courgettes, peas, sugar snap peas and spinach, but french or runner beans, swiss chard, mange tout, asparagus and broad beans would all make excellent additions. Fresh mint and coriander provide some extra layers of flavour, toasted cashews give a bit of texture (you can use pine nuts or coconut flakes instead), and the dish is lifted with a spritz of lemon at the end.
How to make Indian rice salad with summer vegetables
The rice is a good place to start, and can be made well ahead of time. Weigh the rice and wash it thoroughly in a sieve under plenty of cold water until the water runs clear, then leave to drain. Make up a some weak vegetable stock – about half strength. If you already have liquid stock, just use half stock and half water.
Grate or crush the garlic and ginger, and finely chop a green finger chilli. Remove two or three strips of zest from a lemon – I use a vegetable peeler and try to make sure to get just the zest and not too much of the white pith underneath. Then gather your spices. You’ll need cumin seeds, a cinnamon stick, 6 cardamom pods crushed with the flat of a knife so they split a little, ground coriander, and garam masala. I like to add some fresh curry leaves as well but this is optional.
Put a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over a medium heat with a couple of tablespoons of oil (I use coconut but vegetable, rapeseed or canola will do). Once hot, add the cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, and curry leaves (if using). Let them sizzle in the oil for a minute or two until they start to become aromatic, then add the garlic, ginger, chilli and stir constantly for another minute, ensuring the garlic doesn’t catch. Then add the ground coriander, garam masala, and lemon zest, give everything a good stir for another minute, then tip in the rice and stir until it’s evenly coated with the spices. Pour over the vegetable stock and bring to the boil, then cover and simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to steam for 5 minutes.
Remove the cinnamon stick, lemon peel, and as many cardamom pods as you can find. The gently stir the rice with a fork to separate the grains, and leave to cool. Once cool, give it a taste and add a little more salt if necessary. If you’re preparing it well ahead of time, keep it in the fridge until half an hour before serving.
For the vegetables, I boiled some frozen peas and wilted some chopped fresh spinach. We have regular spinach in the garden which isn’t so great raw, but if you have baby leaf spinach you can just stir a handful into the salad uncooked. If you prefer to steam the rest of your vegetables, sprinkle them with a little salt beforehand, and make sure not to cook them for too long – 2–3 minutes should do it for most. This is a cold salad so you want them still have some bite. If you’re BBQ-ing or have a grill pan, get it nice and hot, coat the vegetables in a little oil and sprinkle over some salt, then grill until beautifully charred. For courgette slices I would suggest a minutes or two on each side. If you’re using green beans or asparagus, then you want to cook them until just tender – so a fork will go in fairly easily but there’s still a little resistance. For sugar snap peas or mange tout, I just toss them about on the grill for a minute or so.
For the cashews, get a dry frying pan nice and hot, and add the nuts, and turn them frequently until golden brown. You could also use flaked almonds or pine nuts (which are technically seeds but can still be an allergen). You could also use coconut flakes for a nut-free option, and for all of these you can toast them in exactly the same way as the cashews. Just make sure to watch them constantly and move them around the pan frequently so they don’t burn.
Finally, roughly chop some coriander, remove some mint leaves from their stems, and quarter the lemon you peeled earlier. Stir the vegetables and herbs through the rice, scatter the toasted cashews over the top, and serve with a lemon wedge.
This salad makes an excellent meal in its own right, especially with a little mango chutney and/or cooling mint raita on the side. It also makes a great side dish, as part of a BBQ spread or Indian buffet-style feast. You could also serve it warm as an extravagant accompaniment to curry. There are SO MANY OPTIONS. Here are just a few to get you started:
- Tandoori Tofu BBQ Skewers – an ideal BBQ combo (see photo above for proof at least in an aesthetic sense)
- Indian-spiced sweetcorn fritters – includes a bonus recipe for easy mint raita
- Indian potato cakes – for some carb-on-carb action, and the tomato relish is to die for
- Tofu Butter Masala – my newly discovered favourite curry recipe makes a great warm option
Please let me know if you give this a try! I would love to hear what you think. You can comment below or use the star rating at the top of the post, or tag me on Instagram or Twitter @greedybearbakes.
Indian Rice Salad With Summer Vegetables
A beautifully fragrant rice salad with Indian spices, summer vegetables, fresh herbs and toasted cashews
- 175g white basmati rice
- 325ml half-strength vegetable stock
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed or grated
- 1.5cm ginger, grated
- 1 finger chilli, finely sliced
- 1 lemon
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 green cardamom pods
- 8 fresh curry leaves (optional)
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp garam masala
- 2 tbsp coconut oil (sub rapeseed, sunflower or canola)
- 2 medium courgettes*, sliced into 2cm rounds
- 200g sugar snap peas or mange tout
- 100g fresh spinach or baby spinach
- 75g fresh or frozen peas
- 50g cashews**
- 15g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
- 15g fresh mint
- salt to taste
- oil for frying/grilling
- Measure 175g rice and rinse in a sieve until the water runs clear. Make up 325ml vegetable stock using half the amount of stock you would normally. Crush or grate 3 cloves of garlic, grate 1.5 cm ginger, finely slice one green chilli, and use a vegetable peeler to remove 2 strips of zest from the lemon. Gather all of the spices, and add 2 tbsp oil to a saucepan over a medium heat.
- Crush the 6 cardamom pods with the flat of a knife so they split open a little. Once the oil is hot, add the pods along with 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 cinnamon stick, and 8 fresh curry leaves (if using). Let sizzle in the oil for 1–2 minutes until fragrant, then add the garlic, ginger and chilli and stir continuously for 1–2 minutes, ensuring the garlic doesn’t burn. Stir in ½ tsp ground coriander, ½ tsp garam masala, and the strips of lemon, then tip in the rice and stir until the rice is evenly coated in the spices. Pour in the weak stock and bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and without taking off the lid, let steam for 5 mins.
- After 5 minutes, remove the lid from the rice and discard the cinnamon stick, lemon peel and cardamom seeds. Use a fork to fluff up the rice, separating the grains, then leave to cool. If making ahead of time, refrigerate once cool, until half an hour before serving.
- You’ll need about half an hour to prepare and cook the vegetables and extras for the rice salad. If using regular spinach, roughly chop it. Bring 75g of fresh or frozen peas to the boil in salted water and simmer until just tender (about 2–3 minutes). You can do this in the bottom of a steamer, and steam the sugar snap peas or mange tout once the peas have boiled, then add the chopped spinach for the final minute (if you have baby spinach just wash it and add it to the salad raw). Refresh the vegetables with plenty of cold water once cooked (you may need to squeeze the excess water out of the spinach).
- Slice the courgettes into 2cm rounds and sprinkle with a little salt. Get a frying or griddle pan nice and hot over a medium heat, and add 50g cashews. Toss frequently for a few minutes until they start to brown, then transfer to a small bowl. Turn the heat up a little, add a little oil to the pan, then fry the courgettes for 1–2 minutes on each side until charred. If you have a BBQ on the go, you can cook both the courgettes and sugar snap peas on the grill instead – just coat them with a little oil, sprinkle with salt, and grill for a few minutes until charred.
- Roughly chop 15g fresh coriander and strip the leaves from 15g mint. Chop the lemon you peeled earlier into wedges. Mix all of the vegetables and coriander through the rice, taste and add a little more salt if necessary, then sprinkle over the mint leaves and toasted cashews. Serve with a wedge of lemon to squeeze over the salad.
*The vegetables here are suggestions and you can use what you have or what’s in season. French or runner beans, swiss chard, asparagus, or broad beans would all make great additions.
**You could replace the cashews with flaked almonds or pine nuts, or for a nut-free version, coconut flakes would work really well. Any of these can be toasted in the same way as the cashews in a hot, dry frying pan, just watch them like a hawk and move them around the pan to ensure they don’t burn.