I am starting a new job next week but I feel like I’m about to start primary school all over again: I’m a bit nervous, I don’t know what the other boys and girls will be like and I hope I won’t get lost in the unfamiliar corridors.
There’s an ironed shirt hanging in my wardrobe and I even polished my shoes, but most importantly I have a little lunchbox prepared in the fridge. No day can be too daunting with the prospect of something good to eat halfway through it.
This salad of rice, chicken, parsley, dried cranberries and seeds seemed to be a low risk option. It can’t leak into my handbag, and it won’t smell strong (I’ll be saving the smoked mackerel and Thai salads reeking of fish sauce for when I’m a bit more settled in). Also, I find the Christmassiness of the red, white and green immensely cheering when it’s January, cold and grey, and spring is still a fantasy.
It’s loosely based on the North American salad in (I think) Nigella Lawson’s Feast made of leftover turkey, wild rice, cranberries and pecans. I had meant to include pecans in mine, but forgot to buy any, and anyway I think the seasoned seeds I used are possibly even better. I am hugely excited about these: pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds mixed with a bit of soy until they are conker-shiny, sprinkled with smoked paprika and baked in a medium heat oven until dry. Be warned - these are dangerously moreish.
Although I made this from scratch, writing the recipe out make me realise it’s the perfect way to use up leftover cooked chicken or rice. Although these sorts of salads are a good time to experiment and are best made by adding what you think looks right, try not to treat them as a dustbin by putting in absolutely anything that needs using up.
About a cup of cooked rice (sorry, I didn’t measure anything for this)
A small handful of cooked chicken - I used the meat taken from one drumstick, and dark meat is better here
One very small leek, sliced into rings
Toasted seeds or nuts, whatever takes your fancy
Flat leaf parsley - lots
Dressing - nothing fancy, I like one part wine vinegar to five of olive oil
Cook the leek in a tiny drop of water until just tender, either in a small saucepan or you can do it in the microwave in the bowl you’ll mix the rest of the salad in later, then allow to cool. Mix the rice, the chicken cut into little chunks, and whatever proportions of cranberries, seeds and parsley please you. I like a lot of parsley so it almost ressembles tabbouleh. Douse in dressing.