How about a salad offering at this weekend’s BBQ that’s a little bit special… and very easy to make? This one is nutty black rice and grilled veggies straight off the barbie tossed through with a dark, tangy grape molasses dressing spiced up with a hint of chilli and balanced with plenty of cooling coriander. I made this dish off the cuff a few months ago for visiting friends. We’d had a weekend of heavy foods and were after something wholesome, tasty and loaded with veg. I’d found some Venus rice at my local supermarket — a short grain black rice that’s a cross between an Italian and Chinese variety. Black rice has been highly regarded for centuries in China where it was considered an aphrodisiac by emperors and their courts. It took an overnight soak and a 30-minute cook on the hob (black rice is not fast by any stretch, but soaking halves the time), and in the meantime we fired up the barbie and cooked whatever I had in the fridge — which amounted to celery and asparagus (if you like these veggies I’ve been cooking a lot with them lately: here, here and here) and some gem lettuces which I turned into the popular recipe from page 218 in East by West. The long asparagus and celery stems were popped onto the BBQ whole and then chopped straight into the cooked rice infused with a glossy black grape molasses and extra virgin olive oil dressing (a rich balsamic vinegar works equally well, as tested this morning). Freshened up with coriander, this chewy nutty salad was a hit, so much so that this next batch is on its way to my friends’ moving home BBQ at lunchtime. Yum yum.



Serves 6 as a side dish

1 cup black rice (try Venus rice, Forbidden Rice, Emperor’s Rice or Wild rice)
1 veg stock cube (or ½ tsp of sea salt)
2 bunches asparagus 
5 celery sticks
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp grape or pomegranate molasses *
2 tbsp ACV (apple cider vinegar)
½ tsp chilli flakes
30g coriander leaves, rough chopped


  1. Soak the rice overnight (or min. 1 hour). Rinse and drain.

  2. Place in a large pan with 2 cups of water (add ½ cup more if you soaked for less time) and the stock cube or sea salt.

  3. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes (longer if soaked less), lid on, until tender enough to fully squash between finger nails. Keep an eye on water levels, especially if steam escapes the lid at all.

  4. Meanwhile make the dressing, place the olive oil, molasses, ACV and chilli flakes into a jar with a big pinch of salt and shake until slightly emulsified.

  5. When the rice is tender, drain well (the excess water is a delicious base for soups!), place in a large mixing bowl, stir in the dressing and set aside to infuse and cool.

  6. On the BBQ (or a griddle pan on the hob), gently grill the asparagus shoots for 2-4 minutes and the celery sticks for about 10 minutes or so until just tender, turning often. I tend to do this without any oil/fat but do add some if the veggies are sticking at all.

  7. Rough chop the grilled veggies into chunks (not too small or they got lost in the rice (approx 2cm for the asparagus and 1cm for the celery).

  8. When ready to serve, fold the chopped vegetables and chopped coriander through the dressed rice, taste and adjust seasoning.

East by West tip:

  • If you don’t have any molasses, sub 4 tablespoons of balsamic and leave out the ACV too.

  • Soaking makes these whole grains easier to digest as well as quicker to cook — unsoaked rice can take up to an hour. If you go ahead and cook unsoaked rice, rinse thoroughly first and then cook until over al dente.

  • The cooking liquid from black rice is a gorgeous deep purple — use as a base for soups and stews.

  • You can also sub red rice and brown rice.