Filling, healthy comfort food perfect for autumn evenings. Chunks of sweet pumpkin roasted in cumin pair with a pilaf of brown rice studded with plump dried apricots and toasted cashews highlighted with fresh, peppery rocket and a spicy lime and coriander dressing. This is a simple, easy to make meal made with high flavour ingredients to satisfy your tastebuds and quell comfort food cravings.
On Saturday night I rescued a dog. I was out for a second walk in the afternoon (after some major cupcake testing) when I came across a very friendly, very lost looking, little white dog. There were no open gates nearby, no owners calling out for the puppy to come back, so I approached and gently picked the little puppy up. She obviously belonged to someone because she was plump and well-cared for and very friendly. After knocking on doors in the street for 20 minutes, and encountering some helpful neighbours, I still had a little puppy with no home.
Luckily we have a 24 hour vet close by, so with the help of one of the neighbours and his rope-tying skills (it’s a good thing to live near a marina in these times) the little pup and I walked the 3km to the vet in the growing dark. Though we were complete strangers to each other, our companionship was thick and fast. When we reached a road I would carry the little pup across and in turn she would snuggle into my chest and keep me warm from the wind. On arrival the vet scanned the pup and luckily found a microchip with all the owner’s details. I knew that in an hour or so my little walking companion would be safe and sound in her parent’s arms. Lesson learned: when the universe leads you to go on a second walk in the afternoon you should listen. It feels good to do good sometimes.
After my walk back home through the chilly night I was cold and wishing for a bowl of something hearty to soothe a hungry belly. I needed spice and whole grains and sweet roasted winter vegetables. This salad was exactly what I was craving.
It all starts with a pot of brown rice boiled with spices and chunks of golden butternut pumpkin rolled in cumin and olive oil and roasted until they are soft and golden. These two are joined by fresh peppery rocket, sweet dried apricots and crunchy roasted cashews. The dressing is easy to whisk together, lime juice, fresh coriander, and more spices. Every layer of this salad echoes a mix of spices. The result is a simple, easily-made salad with layers of flavour and texture. This is healthy, nourishing, autumn comfort food at its best. Being kind and nourishing to your body gives you the reserves to be kind and nourishing to others.
Vegan | Gluten Free | Serves 4 as a light meal | Leftovers will keep in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days
- 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin seeds
- 3 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup brown rice
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 small butternut pumpkin (500-600 grams)
- 1/4 cup cashew halves
- 4 cups baby rocket leaves
- 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander
- Gather all your spices so that you know you have everything you need.
- Preheat your oven to 200C (400F) and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
- Place brown rice in the bottom of a heavy-based saucepan along with 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon coriander, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Place over a medium heat and toast until spices become fragrant. Turn the heat to low and add the water. Be careful as it may sputter a little. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Once boiling, and reduce to a simmer. Cook, without stirring for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, drain the excess liquid and allow to cool.
- While rice is cooking prepare the pumpkin. Peel butternut pumpkin and dice into large-ish cubes (about 2.5cm/1 inch cubed). Place on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon of olive oil and then sprinkle on 2 teaspoons ground cumin. Roll the pumpkin around so that everything is coated in oil and spice. Roast in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender all the way to the centre. Add the cashews in the last 5 minutes of cooking to roast them.
- Once your pumpkin, cashews, and rice are cooked you are ready to assemble the salad.
- Place rocket leaves and apricots into a large bowl. Add pumpkin, cashews and rice.
- Whisk together lime juice, remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, remaining spices, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over the salad and toss gently but thoroughly. Sprinkle chopped coriander on top and serve.