Thursday 1 March 2012

Asparagus, Onion, Chickpea and Cashew Rice

Last week, eldest spotted some asparagus on special offer in the supermarket and asked if we could buy it. As I am partial to a dish with asparagus, and despite it being Mexican rather than British asparagus, I granted her request and made a mental note to cook with it at some point. After a few days of not using our asparagus, I decided that I had better find a dish to use it up. I found this recipe online and decided to adapt it to suit the ingredients I had. Coincidentally, I had been chatting with a vegetarian friend about not using enough beans, lentils and pulses in my cooking, and so I decided to use some canned chickpeas for added protein. The onion and garlic add flavour to the dish, and the cashews add a delicious crunchy texture, compared to the soft texture of the rest of the dish. The dressing adds some extra zing to the other flavours, although go easy on the salt!

My kids won't eat rice with "funny" dressing on, so for them, I left the dressing off and grated some cheese over the top of the dish. A dash of tomato ketchup also helped the dish to go down a little more easily with the kids. This dish is a great balanced meal for vegetarian kids. The rice provides carbohydrates, the asparagus and onions provide the vegetables, cheese provides the dairy, and the chickpeas and nuts provide the protein. (This dish is made even healthier if its brown rice - although mine won't eat it!).

We ate this dish warm and it was really delicious. I think that this would make a fantastic summer salad, served cold as part of a buffet, or as a main meal. You could also use tahini instead of soy sauce in the dressing and make the dish with or without the dressing.

Try it out for yourself and let me know what you think!

Asparagus, Onion, Chickpea & Cashew Rice

500g Long Grain Rice
350g Asparagus Spears, washed & chopped into chunks
2 medium Onions, chopped
400g Canned Chickpeas, drained
150g Cashew Nuts
2 Cloves Garlic, crushed
Olive Oil for cooking
Knob of Butter for cooking

For The Dressing:
1 Garlic Clove, crushed and chopped
50ml Vegetarian Soy Sauce
50ml Lemon Juice 
Zest from one Lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Hot Water
Salt for seasoning 

Optional Alternatives
Grated Cheddar
Tomato Ketchup

  1. Rinse the rice in cold water, transfer it to a saucepan, cover with hot water and cook as per the instructions on the packet.
  2. Meanwhile, make the dressing by adding the olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, lemon zest and juice to a bowl and whisking it together. Add the hot water to the mixture, followed by the salt and then set aside for later. 
  3. Add a decent amount of olive oil to a pan on a medium heat. Place the drained chickpeas and some salt in a pan and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the onion and garlic to the pan, and fry on a medium heat until they turn golden, stirring the ingredients to prevent burning.
  4. Next, add the asparagus to the pan and stir to distribute the mixture evenly. Cover the pan with a lid and allow the asparagus to steam for a couple of minutes - until it starts to soften.
  5. Meanwhile in a separate pan, melt the butter and add the cashews to the pan (reserve a few for decoration). Coat the cashews in the butter and roast for a couple of minutes over a high heat, stirring regularly.
  6. Once the rice is cooked, drain and add to the pan, along with the cashew nuts. Stir to combine, so that all of the ingredients are distributed evenly throughout the dish. 
  7. Garnish with the reserved cashews, serve in a large bowl and allow each person to help themselves.
  8. (You could add the dressing before serving, or allow people to help themselves to suit their own tastes. Alternatively, if you are not a fan of the dressing, serve plain, or with some grated cheddar cheese, or with a dressing of your choice).



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