Thursday, 27 October 2011

apple and cucumber brown rice salad (and a budget update)

yesterday i went to visit my lovely family up near Bath, and i got to see my dad for the first time in ages! i also got lots of cute hugs with my gorgeous niece, and enjoyed a huge roast and trifle for lunch. juliet spent lots of time grabbing hair and touching faces... it's such a wonderful age to be!

before delving into the world of how much money i have saved/spent this last week, i wanted to share a simple recipe with you all - apple and cucumber rice salad.

lunchtimes are becoming more of a takeaway affair, and i love being able to prepare a big batch of something for us all to take to work. it's a pleasure to be able to know your loved ones are eating good and wholesome food throughout the day :)

rice salad is something my swedish grandmother always makes for lunches and special occasions - it's always on the christmas eve table in both sweet and savoury variations. and i've never really made it myself, but now i'm eating more of a vegan, wholegrain diet and trying to save money, it seemed like a great opportunity to experiment with different recipes. plus, i absolutely adore brown rice.

eaten cold with hot baked beans (in the style of it will stop raining!) it is wonderfully crunchy and fresh. i really adore eating with chopsticks too, it makes you eat slower and more graciously, even with all the little grains of rice.

for lunchtime shared with my mum in the grounds of our local cathedral - it was a compliment to the beautiful surroundings and weather we had that day.

apple and cucumber brown rice salad recipe
1 cup brown rice
1/2 a large cucumber
1 apple
1 celery stick
1/4 yellow bell pepper
a handful of raisins
a splash of apple cider vinegar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
1/2 onion + 1 tsp turmeric (optional)

1. cook the brown rice in salted water until al dente. drain and run under cold water (this is very important to stop bacteria growing on the rice)
2. dice up the vegetables into cm cubes, and place in a large bowl with the raisins, vinegar, lemon and olive oil.
3. mix the brown rice into the bowl and toss well. season with salt and pepper.
4. for additional flavour and colour, soften the onion in a hot pan with a little butter and the turmeric. mix in thoroughly, and this will produce a beautiful golden colour. don't be tempted to add them in raw, as this will make an unpleasant grainy texture (trust me).
5. it tastes best if left to marinate for an hour or two in the fridge, and this will allow the raisins or other dried fruit to plump up and add to the textures of the dish. make sure to eat within 48 hours.

cook's notes: this recipe has endless variations, depending on what's in your fridge, freezer or storecupboard. the quantities and proportions of ingredients really all come down to taste - so throw in whatever you like!

i also love to add in: boiled eggs, spring onion, olives, chopped fresh herbs, peas, sweetcorn, pomegranate, tomato, sundried tomato, grilled peppers, chilli, red onion, dates, apricots, green beans, roasted pumpkin, avocado, a tin of mixed beans.

and now, drumroll please..., it's time for the big budget challenge update, thanks once again to laura!

the journey is so interesting when you are trying to save money in a big way, but by using lots of different methods - some work, some don't. and you learn so much about yourself in the process...

firstly, "need" and "want" have become 2 very different words. when i go out shopping, i focus on what's actually required, rather than what i fancy or what's on special offer. when writing the list of what we need for that week, i make sure to discern what's appropriate, do we really need it? sometimes it's just a habit that you've fallen into - like needing rooibos tea, even though there's other flavours in the cupboard. or wanting barley flour, when there's spelt available.

another thing that's come from saving up money on this challenge, is perspective. we are so wonderfully fortunate in this country to have pretty much all that we desire, even when we think we're doing badly, it's nothing in comparison with most of the world, particularly the current East African food crisis.

so, last week, when we realised how much we've been able to save, we all discussed giving away half of it to those with real needs. we settled on sending a portion to Tear Fund, who we know will use it wisely to bring food and aid to those in East Africa. it's incredible how we've unknowingly spent so easily before, thinking that the money was 'our well-earnt' cash to spend on food to make us happier and healthier. but actually reducing our spending has made us eat healthier, more locally and seasonally, and eat less too.

so, other updates:
  • we've now got £47.04 in the account, after having given half to Tear Fund, we also spent £20 on supplies for the allotment. we bought weed protection cover, bark chip and secateurs, so we can prevent the weeds becoming unmanageable next year - an investment, that will reap serious reward, we hope!
  • we've also spent time this week writing out the planting plan for the allotment next year, so we can work out what seeds to purchase, and what areas to manure or dig over.
  • the market this week was excellent. i wizzed round in record time, and picked up some interesting produce for the Foodbuzz challenge this coming weekend! see if you can figure out what i'll be making from this list...

  • i also went to purchase staple ingredients at Tesco, Lidl and Waitrose - coming out with about 5 things from each place, because i've now identified the best places for certain items in terms of value for money (cost, quantity & quality)
  • i've been cooking a lot with pulses & wholegrains, and loving it! and researching more into street food, to see what flavour combos i can use to make things even more exciting - i loved the chili marrow chilaquiles that i had this week, and the buckwheat spaetzle was another yummy highlight.
  • i still haven't spent more than £1 on clothing, and continued to avoid the hairdresser's in order to keep growing my hair out.
  • i have spent a little more on petrol this month, but i've done a personal budget update so i can allow for more visits to family! and i took £5 out of our joint account to cover trips to the allotment - a nice gift from mum and bro.
  • and most importantly... we've each cut out weekly food spent from £20 to £15, starting next week. so we shall see how it goes with a reduced food allowance. though i think that given the current rate of spending, we should be just fine.
it's so interesting to see how everyone else taking part in the challenge is finding things! i can't wait to continue saving money!

how near is your local market? how often do you visit it? what are your favorite rice salad ingredients?

currently listening to: the healing cancer world summit, hosted by the amazing kevin gianni, and with the MOST fascinating talks by leading cancer researchers in alternative care. over 50,000 have already tuned in, and i can totally say that if you are interested in the way nutrition can impact your health in a big way, then you really ought to listen...


  1. looks like a great dish, and your niece is cute.

  2. Sounds like my kind of dish - will be trying it out soon!

    ps: I live in Bath and absolutely love it!

  3. This is such a great post, I'm so happy that doing the challenge has been useful and that you are kind enough to be sending some money to a charity like that. Your rice salad also sounds delicious!

  4. wat a fantastic recipe...absolutely delicious..;)
    happy following u..
    do stop by mine sometime..
    Tasty Appetite

  5. I love the idea of rice salads! I often stir whole grains into my greens + veggies, too. Thanks for sharing!

  6. "wow" she says in admiration/disbelief - £15 per week food budget. I won't tell you want mine is, it would make your eyes water! How are you managing it?. when you say you get 5 things from each of the supermarkets mentioned - do you walk to each different supermarket or do you drive? I have done a quick calculation and for me to do that it would be a total of about 35 miles. It's a really interesting thing you are doing, I look forward to reading more from you.

  7. The recipe looks amazing! I'll try it soon and let you know how much I love it!

  8. Thanks for the great recipe! I made it and wrote about it over at my blog:



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