It’s cherry season in the Adelaide Hills! Last weekend we were lucky enough to be invited to pick our fill of beautiful organic cherries from a rambling little property just a few hills over from us.
Organic cherries are no small treasure, as cherry & pear slug tends to be prolific in our area and takes a lot of work to keep on top of organically. The trees we visited were miraculously slug free so we ate and picked, and picked and ate and came home with buckets full to the brim. Some we ate fresh, some I played around with, trying out some new creations and the rest I washed, pitted and froze to use later.
Cherries are a deliciously sensual fruit with their glossy, succulent sweetness, and for Australians, the start of their oh-so-brief season brings with it the promise of relaxed summer days and festive season indulgence. While their loveliness is reason enough to enjoy them to your heart’s content, cherries are full of super antioxidant power, making it better to indulge than not. How good is that?!
The dark colour in cherries is due to the presence of anthocyanins, flavanoids that give foods their dark red, blue and purple colours. Anthocyanins are great for improving memory, reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer and have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Another food that is full of anthocyanins is black rice, or forbidden rice as it was known in ancient China, due to the fact that it was only to be eaten by the emperor and royal family – or risk punishment by death. Black rice is also high in protein, iron and B vitamins. You can see where I’m going with this can’t you?
Paired together, along with omega-3 rich walnuts and baby spinach, black rice and cherries bring this salad up to superfood level. But it’s pretty enough and delicious enough to take pride of place on your Christmas day table. A good way to balance out some of that festive season overindulgence perhaps?
The recipe is based on Heidi Swanson’s Wholegrain Rice Salad, however I’ve made some subtle changes, including using lemon juice and a touch of honey instead of vinegar in the dressing.
Forbidden Rice Salad with Cherries, Walnuts and Chèvre
- 2 cups black rice
- 4 generous handfuls baby spinach
- 60 g walnuts
- 220 g cherries, pitted
- 120 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp raw honey
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 50 g chèvre (I used this one which is amazing at the moment)
- 1/3 cup small basil leaves
Rinse the rice in cold water, then place into a saucepan along with 3½ cups of water and ¾ tsp salt. Cover, then bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until all the water has been absorbed (about 35 minutes). Stand, covered, 5 minutes before using.
While the rice is cooking, make up the dressing. Take about a third of the cherries and place into a small food processor, along with the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, ¼ teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and blend until smooth.
Break the walnuts into pieces using your fingers, and pop into a large mixing bowl along with the baby spinach. Add the hot rice and stir the whole lot together until the spinach is wilted. Tear the cherries in half, and add to the salad, leaving a few aside to garnish.
Toss the dressing through the salad and taste for salt. Serve at once garnished with crumbled chèvre, basil leaves and remaining cherries.