Have you seen the land living by the breeze
Can you understand a light among the trees
Tell me all that you may know
Show me what you have to show
Tell us all today
If you know the way to blue?
— Nick Drake, Way to Blue
Sometimes I have philosophical doubts about my endeavours. Let’s take this recipe blog: I’ve loved to cook for longer than I can remember. Presumably, I’ve loved to eat for longer than that. The whole process — measuring, mixing, plating, eating — its simple physicality, the quiet care required — is calming. The final creation is made more special by its inherent transience. Writing and photography excite me, I’ve been learning web development and design… so a recipe blog — it’s a perfect fusion of so many of my loves, right?
But the internet isn’t short of recipe blogs. The internet is in fact over-flowing with them, one more visually delicious than the next, their creativity and food-styling in equal parts awe-inspiring and deflating. When I ask the inevitable question “Does the world need another recipe blog?”, a vicious internal voice whispers a blunt and brutal “No”.
Night time is the playground of my inner voices. My inner nihilist proclaims there’s no point to any of it anyway. The more serious existentialist within harangues me to make careful and responsible use of my time: if I’m to create meaning from this strange befuddling existence, shouldn’t I build it in something more substantive than rainbow salads, quiches, and cream puffs… Anguish! Despair!
In the light of day, away from the insidious echoing voices, I remember how food can bring people together. I’ve experienced it first-hand: spooning mugs of soup at family dinners, on cold winter nights over hot spiced drinks with friends old and new, the quiet care in a meal cooked for a lover, at Milk and Cookie Stories, the storytelling night I started once, where bonds are built with strangers over home-baked cookies, hot tea and stories.
True, another food blog won’t solve any of humanities deepest problems. This doesn’t mean it’s without value — both as an authentic expression of something I love… and as something that may, in some small way, through a loaf of crusty bread baked or colourful salad shared, bring a little joy to friends or strangers.
I call this simple wholesome salad "Rainbow Salad", because it has ingredients of (almost) all the colours in the rainbow. It makes a great lunch, snack or side salad, and keeps well for several days in the fridge.
- 1 cup (200 g) bulgur wheat
- 1 400 g can (240 g drained - about 1⅓ cups) red kidney beans
- 2 medium carrots, sliced in half circles
- 125 - 150 g (~ 1 cup) green beans, sliced in thirds
- 200 - 250 g (1½ - 2 cups) cherry tomatoes , halved - or 3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
- ½ medium red onion (~ ½ cup), finely chopped
- ¼ cup (40 - 50 g) raisins or sultanas
- 2 tbsp (20 g) pine nuts
- ¼ cup fresh coriander leaf, roughly chopped (optional)
- Lemon slices (optional garnish)
- 1 heaped tbsp wholegrain mustard
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar
- ½ tsp salt
- A generous grinding of pepper
- Steam green beans and carrots, taking care not to overcook them. Once tender, rinse in cold water to ensure they do not cook further and set aside.
- Cook the bulgur in 1½ cups boiling water over a low heat. When all the water has been absorbed, set it aside.
- In a colander, drain and thoroughly rinse red kidney beans.
- Prepare onions, tomatoes and coriander and place in a large salad bowl with raisins, pine nuts and red kidney beans.
- Whisk dressing ingredients in small jar.
- Add dressing to salad bowl and toss all ingredients are completely coated.
- Finally, add steamed vegetables and bulgur, and gently toss again until thoroughly mixed. Don't worry if carrots, green beans and bulgur are still warm; this salad is great either warm, room temperature or cold.
Use couscous in place of the bulgur. Experiment with other grains, for example quinoa, brown rice, or orzo.
Replace red kidney beans with a bean of your choice. I recommend chickpeas. Fried or grilled cubes of tofu would also be a delicious alternative.
Add feta or mozzarella cheese in place of or in addition to the beans.
Try any or all of the following: Replace green beans with lightly steamed broccoli. Substitute carrots with steamed sweet potatoes or butternut squash. Use 2 - 3 scallions in place of red onion.
Replace pine nuts with a nut or seed of your choice. I recommend pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or sliced almonds.