Saturday, November 24, 2012

A pearl barley paella

My current obsession with pearl barley hasn't worn off yet. And after last week's not-very-authentic risotto, I decided to make a not-very-authentic paella.

It was a vegetarian version, which I kicked off by sweating some chopped red peppers, onions and garlic. In went the pearl barley, along with some vegetable stock, bay leaves, turmeric, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper. About half an hour later, when the barley was tender, I added some frozen peas, black olives and halved cherry tomatoes. After a few minutes more cooking, and a scattering of chopped fresh rosemary, it was ready to eat.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A spicy, warming tomato risotto

I am becoming increasingly converted to the joys of pearl barley. A couple of years ago I had barely cooked it at all, and now it's almost as regular as rice in my repertoire. Like rice, it works hot or cold, so you can use it in substantial salads. You can also use it in risotto-style dishes, and it's cheaper than risotto rice, more nutritious, and usually grown in the UK. What's not to like?

Well, you won't get the creaminess that you get with risotto rice, though you can compensate for this, maybe by stirring in some crème fraîche at the end. Or you can make a dish that isn't really about creaminess, like this 'risotto'.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Discovering the joys of fruit salad

I am growing to appreciate fruit salad. I'm not sure whether this is a sign of advancing years, or if it's that I've become a bit more health-conscious.

In the past I've mainly come across it in restaurants or buffets, and I've always considered it a poor relation to, well, any other dessert, or cheese for that matter. It's not cooked for a start, and therefore hardly a real dish (I don't consider salad to be a main dish either). And all too often it seems over-stuffed with pieces of hard apple, presumably because apples are cheaper than other fruit. Invariably I would go for any other option.

Photo: mrsmaxspix

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Things you have probably never eaten if you are 100

My grandmother is an adventurous eater. She claims there's nothing she doesn't like, though in fact she is not keen on potatoes. As I've mentioned before, she's also blessed with a healthy appetite.

She happily eats pasta, pizza, stir-fry, Chinese food, and many other things she was never exposed to for most of her adult life. At age 100, I reckon this is impressive.

Sometimes she will comment on an unheard-of item that she has seen in the newspaper or on television. Last week she asked me if I'd ever had couscous, today it was quinoa. The answer to both is yes, although I am sure she's not alone in never having heard of quinoa before.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dukkah: an Egyptian way with nuts and spices

I'd never heard of dukkah, which I know know to be an Egyptian blend of ground nuts and spices. There are endless variations of ingredients, but the usual idea is that you dip some bread in olive oil, then in the dukkah.

You can also use it to jazz up all kinds of things: roasted vegetables, lamb, various beans and pulses, perhaps sprinkled over a hearty soup. It's a nutty, aromatic mixture, not a hot one.
Puy lentils with toasted tomatoes, poached egg and dukkah