Wild rice, butter bean and baby spinach salad

When I was a child, we would go to the beach on the Lido in Venice most days in the summer. We always took a picnic lunch with us. More often than not, that would include a box of cold rice salad — white rice mixed with tuna, capers, boiled eggs, grilled vegetables and any other leftovers we had in the kitchen.

This version, made with butter beans and fresh baby spinach leaves, and dressed with nothing more than olive oil and a little salt, is a slightly more sophisticated twist on that childhood classic and I serve it at dinner parties as often as I make it for packed lunches.

I have used a mix of Camargue red rice and wild rice here (widely available in supermarkets), which I find gives a lovely nutty flavour and texture to the salad, but feel free to make it with whatever rice takes your fancy. Try adding a little tuna, or shavings of cheese (manchego or pecorino, perhaps, or a good hard blue cheese) and a few walnuts. A smattering of sharp fruit — ruby-red pomegranate seeds or thin slices of sharp plum — add a lovely depth and colour to the dish.

Serves: 6 people, as a sharing plate

Time: 55 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 200g mixed wild and Camargue red rice
  • 1 x 400g tin of butter beans
  • A handful of baby spinach leaves
  • Olive oil

01 Place the rice and 1 tsp salt in a medium-sized saucepan, then add 600ml cold water and set over a medium heat to bring to the boil. When it starts to gallop, lower the heat, cover the pan and leave to simmer for 35-45 minutes, until the rice is cooked.

02 Fluff the rice with a fork, tip it into a colander to drain any leftover liquid, then run under cold water to wash away the excess starch before setting to one side.

03 To make the salad, put the rice into a serving dish, drain the butter beans and add them to the bowl along with a generous handful of baby spinach. Toss well, drizzle with a little olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.