Tag Archives: healthy food

Middle Eastern Pearl Barley Salad

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It’s the hint of sweet spices, orange juice and currants that I love most in this Middle Eastern spiced pearl barley salad.  The flavours and the irresistible turmeric colouring infuse into the nutty pearl barley, making every mouthful layered with taste. A sprinkling of toasted almonds, garnished over the top, adds the perfect and necessary crunchy texture to this salad. So it’s no surprise when people ask me to ‘bring a salad’ this is often the one I resort to.

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Let’s face it, dried grains, particularly pearl barley, are a very affordable way of feeding people. And unlike some of the other more robust pulses (chickpeas or black beans) pearl barley can be cooked straight from the packet, no pre soaking required. It makes it an excellent choice for those who forget to plan ahead – or for those who tend to leave cooking to the last minute.

This salad doubles as a side dish, and it works served either cold or served warm. Try it with these barbecued lamb skewers, or even this delicious Moroccan roasted chicken .

It combines effortlessly with an arrangement of other salads, like with this roasted cauliflower salad, or this Kale and pickled carrot slaw.

Because of the filling nature of grain salads there are often left overs (I’m not complaining). Put them to good use. I sometimes fry up any remaining pearl barley and eat it rolled in a wrap the next day with some tahini, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and green salad leaves.  It’s perfect lunch time fare.

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Middle Eastern Pearl Barley Salad

Ingredients 

1 cup pearl barley

1 brown onion, roughly chopped

2 carrots, roughly chopped

1 stick celery, roughly chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp all spice

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp turmeric

2 tsp cumin

1/3 cup dried currants

1 orange

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/3 cup toasted slithered almonds

Place the pearl barley in a pot, cover with plenty of water, bring to the boil and cook for 35 – 40 minutes or till pearl barley is just cooked through. Drain and rinse briefly under hot water, set aside.

Meanwhile, place the roughly chopped onion, carrot and celery in a food processor and blitz lightly to a small dice.

Warm 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan, add the vegetables, all the spices and a large pinch of salt, stir and cover with a lid, cook on a gentle heat for 5 minutes.

Zest half the orange, then juice the whole orange. Add the orange zest and juice to the saucepan along with the currants, cover with a lid again and cook a further five minutes. Remove from heat and set aside for flavours to infuse for 10 minutes.

Place the spiced vegetables and currants in a medium bowl, add the cooked pearl barley and chopped parsley, stir well to combine. Check the seasoning, and drizzle with a little more extra virgin oil if needed.

Serve on a platter or in a large bowl and scatter with the toasted almonds.

Any left overs store in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Chicken, Kale And Lemon Soup

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I make and freeze soups all the time.

During these colder months of the year, when I’m cooking a different pot of soup each week, I portion the left overs into small individual serves and have them on hand in the freezer for when I need good food fast.

At the moment I have a decent but small crop of kale growing in my urban garden, (it loves this cold weather) and this chicken and kale soup is a perfect way of using it up.

 

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I steered clear of potato as a thickener in this soup, instead, short grain risoni pasta is used to add body to the stock and a smoothness to the soup that I find irresistible.

A free range chicken will give the best results here. The stock will be flavoured from its bones and the chicken is then shredded and added back to the pureed soup.

Of course, as with all kale, there is a slight bitterness here that is then accentuated from the lemon, but this too is part of the charm of this particular soup. And with the help of the sour cream and brown sugar the queen of greens flavour is smoothed out, and a silky soup is left in its place.

 

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Kale, chicken and lemon soup

Ingredients 

1 bunch kale

2 medium brown onions, diced

2 large sticks celery, diced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

3 fresh bay leaves

1 tbsp chopped thyme

1.5kg free range whole chicken

1 whole lemon – wax free if you can

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

white pepper

Sea salt

2/3 cup risoni pasta

1 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

To serve

Chopped parsley

Extra virgin olive oil

Wash the kale and trim away the inner woody stalk. Shred into thin pieces.

Place the onions, celery, garlic, bay leaves, fresh thyme, chicken and the lemon in a large pot, add the chicken stock and add 2 litres of cold water, gently bring to the boil.

Skim off any impurities that bubble to the top, turn the heat down and simmer gently for 45 minutes.

Remove the chicken and the lemon, and set aside to cool slightly.

Place the soup back on the heat, bring back to the boil, add the shredded kale and risoni pasta, and cook on a rapid heat for 12 minutes. Remove from heat.

Cut the lemon in half and squeeze and strain the juices into the soup. Add the brown sugar and sour cream and puree the soup till smooth. Check the seasoning.

Meanwhile, discard the skin from the chicken and shred the flesh into thin pieces.

Once the soup is blended and seasoned to your liking, add the shredded chicken back to it, warm it through and ladle into bowls. Garnish the soup with chopped parsley and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Roasted Brussel Sprout And Chickpea Salad With Garlic Yoghurt

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A dear friends Aunty who I lived with for six months in Brighton, the UK, (20 odd years ago now), would steam her brussels for hours on end.

On a Sunday morning (it was always a Sunday) she would begin the day by steaming the vegetables for the evening meal (gulp). The poor overcooked brussel sprouts would then sit all day on the stove top sweating in their pot till we all came home from the pub and she’d proceeded to heat them again before serving our Sunday roast with something I can only refer to as muck.

It was a crime against the vegetables and one that brussel sprouts never made a recovery from. That is till this year, when I pushed aside those horrid memories and took to roasting them.

 

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Suddenly there was reason to love this misrepresented vegetable. To write a recipe for it. To post it here on this food blog.

I urge anyone who has a brussel sprout phobia to fight back. To say ‘No’ to hating brussel sprouts, and ‘Yes’ to roasting them.

This quick and easy way of preparing them with za’atar, garlic, chickpeas and extra virgin olive oil is so delicious, and so simple, that it is side dish you will be sure to fall back on time-and-time-again.

It’s a side dish to serve with a roast, or a good steak, or any number of other vegetable dishes like creamy potatoes and baked pumpkin.

And what I really love about this dish is the whole cloves of garlic, roasted with the sprouts then skinned and chopped and folded through Greek yoghurt with mint if you fancy, the taste is strong yet subtle, creamy and rounded.

 

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Roasted brussel sprout and chickpea salad with garlic yoghurt 

600g brussel sprouts, washed and halved

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tbsp za’atar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle at the end

4 cloves garlic, smashed but kept in their skin

Sea salt

Cracked black pepper

1/2 cup Greek natural yoghurt

1 tbsp chopped mint

1tbsp lemon juice

Pre heat oven to 200C.

Cut the washed brussel sprouts in half and place in a large bowl. Add the drained chickpeas, za’atar, 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and sea salt and cracked pepper, toss till well coated.

Line a large tray with baking paper and spread the brussels over the tray. Roast for 30 minutes, or till roasted and caramalised looking.  Half way through cooking sprinkle the sprouts with 1 tbsp water to add moisture during the roasting process.

Set the sprouts aside and pick out the garlic, remove the skin and chop it to a fine paste, combine the garlic with the yoghurt, mint, lemon juice, 1 tbsp water, and season with sea salt and pepper.

Dollop the garlic yoghurt all over the brussel sprouts and serve warm.

Creamy Black Rice With Ginger, Coconut And Mango

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I wouldn’t for a minute want you to think that this is a breakfast dish I eat regularly. It’s not. Most mornings it’s homemade muesli with yoghurt and fruit, or my latest obsession a green smoothie with chia seeds. But every now and then, when time and circumstances permit, I turn to this slightly exotic, utterly creamy, black rice.

In my kitchen black rice would usually find its way into salads, be used in a vegetable fritter, or be served under a spicy beef curry. So I admire it for finding it’s way to my breakfast table. The nutty wholesome flavour agrees with my tastebuds and funnily enough, unlike white rice, it’s rather soothing on the digestive system. Probably because it’s gluten free. 

I’ve used fresh ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves to delicately impart their flavours, and honey to sweeten at the end. On other occasions I have instead used vanilla bean and pure maple syrup (also delicious). And always coconut milk.

Slices of mango, now that they are in season, are sweet and tropical but not essential. The berries are though! These add a crucial sour taste and of course essential vitamins and antioxidants. And with all the antioxidants already contained within this gorgeously coloured black rice (which actually turns purple after cooking) you’ll be super charged with goodness for what ever the day ahead may bring. 

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Creamy black rice with ginger, coconut and mango

Ingredients

1/2 cup black rice

500ml water

400ml can organic coconut milk 

4 cardamon pods

2cm piece ginger, sliced

4 cloves

1/2 cinnamon stick, broken into smaller pieces

1 1/2 tbsp honey or pure maple syrup

To serve:

Sliced fresh mango

Blueberries

Toasted coconut chips – optional 

Place the rice in a medium-small saucepan, cover with 500ml water, bring to the boil, turn down the heat and cook for 25 minutes. By this stage nearly all the water will have evaporated but don’t drain or rinse the rice. Add the coconut milk and bring back to the boil.

Meanwhile, place the sliced ginger and cardamon pods in a small mortar and pestle and bruise lightly for the flavours to release. Add these to the rice along with the cloves and cinnamon. I don’t bother tying up my spices in muslin cloth as I don’t have a problem picking out the spices at the end. If this bothers you, maybe you might. Continue cooking the black rice on a gentle simmer for a further 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Once rice is cooked, remove what spices you can find and stir through the honey. Set aside to cool slightly before serving. In fact in hotter weather it’s nice when it’s served almost cold.

Divide the rice between bowls, top with blueberries (or any other fresh berry), sliced mango and toasted coconut chips. 

(C) Copy right 2016 – Creamy black rice with ginger, coconut and mango