A Jewel Bright Salad for a Rainy Day

I've been rain splashed thoroughly today, on account of the mud-guard-less bike I had to borrow while mine was at the doctor's. So tonight I needed a supper that shook the rain out of my coat and fetched my slippers. Whilst a lovely lemon thyme stuffed organic chicken roasted, I threw together a winter salad. Saturated with colour and redolent of warmer places; it made my kitchen a steamy, exotic cinnamon scented heaven.

Jewel Salad (Serves 2-3 as an accompaniment)

1 cup of brown basmati rice
1 large knob of salted butter
1 scant tsp ground turmeric
3 tsp dried barberries
1 small cinnamon stick
1 small handful of green raisins
1 small handful of raw pistachios
1 fresh pomegranate halved horizontally
lemon juice to taste

Melt the butter over a gentle heat in one of your pans that has a close fitting lid. As soon as it has melted toss in the turmeric and stir for 30 seconds to cook off the bitter taste. Add the rice and barberries, stirring to coat evenly.

Pour on enough water to come about half an inch above the rice, adding the cinnamon stick to the pan. Bring up to the boil and then put the lid on and turn down to a simmer. Cook until all the water has been absorbed (check by pushing the rice aside gently with a fork).

Whilst the rice is cooking, put the green raisins in a largish bowl, chop the pistachios and add these and then get medieval on the pomegranate. I do this by pulling the skin so that the halved fruit starts to crack a little and the seeds get a little loose. Then turn it seedy side down over the bowl and bash the skin with a wooden spoon - taking care not to enthusiastically bash your hand. Any bits of white pith that go in, need to come out again - they are seriously bitter.

When the rice is done, turn off the heat and put a doubled up tea towel over the top of the pan, placing the lid back over. Allow the rice to steam covered, for about 10 minutes and then fluff with a fork and add to the bowl of other ingredients. Squeeze over a little lemon juice until the balance of sharp and sweet is just how you like it and eat whilst still a little warm or at room temperature.

Eat this salad with a simple herb stuffed roast chicken and some spicy winter leaves or steamed greens. It would also be great with pheasant or chicken cooked in pomegranate molasses.