Tag Archives: vegetarian

Beetroot Pearl Barley Risotto

13 Nov
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I’ve loved pearl barley ever since I was a child. My mother would make an amazing sweet winter soup called haboub (translates to grains I think). My mother’s recipe includes pearl barley, chickpeas, sugar, aniseed, fennel and water. After she had filled our bowls, we’d sprinkle a little desiccated coconut on top and gobble up with delight. I would go for seconds, at times even thirds, depending on how much I could squeeze in after dinner.

Since then, I hadn’t come across pearl barley until my recent cooking class on superfoods. When I saw pearl barley on the menu, it instantly brought back memories of the cold Sydney winter, flannel pajamas and warm bowls of haboub. However, this dish was savoury as opposed to sweet. I couldn’t wait to learn how to make it and taste it of course. After the first mouthful, I saw myself making it often.

When the first opportunity to show off my fresh knowledge on superfoods arrived, this dish made it onto the menu. A small portion was served as dish number five out of a seven course dinner. My diner, a recent beetroot convert was very pleased with the result and so was I.

Pearl barley is an interesting grain and very versatile. It can be served cold in a salad or warm in a soup. However, I’m stuck on the idea of using it like aborio rice and following a risotto theme. I used it just a few days ago. Again, in the same way, only this time with mushroom stock, re-hydrated mushrooms, gai lan and hard tofu. I thought it was delicious but am still wondering whether its worthy of a post.

Should the next pearl barley post be dedicated to haboub or the asian-style risotto, preference anyone? Care to share your favourite pearl barley recipe? I look forward to it!

Serves 2 (with leftovers)

Ingredients

  • 6 small beetroots, wrapped in foil and roasted until tender (about 45mins at 180C)
  • 1 cup of pearl barley, soaked in cold water overnight
  • 1/2 onion, diced finely
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
  • 3 tbs of butter
  • 3 tbs of olive oil
  • 2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup of chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup of chopped dill
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

When the beetroots are cool enough to handle, peel skin, then grate or blitz in a food processor and set aside. Reserve one beetroot and cut into chunks.

In a heavy pot, melt butter, add olive oil and then saute onion until translucent. Add pearly barley and cook for a few minutes on medium heat. Drop to a simmer, then add stock gradually stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick to the base. It should take about 30 minutes to cook the pearl barley.

Add beetroot and combine with pearly barley. Then add parsley and dill, season to taste. If the risotto is too thick, add a little more butter or stock.

Serve with fetta, a few chunks of beetroot, garnish with extra dill and a little olive oil.

Adapted from original recipe by Brenda Fawdon

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Roasted Pumpkin Spelt Gnocchi with Sage Butter Sauce

9 Nov

This was dish number 4 out of the 7 course dinner which I recently prepared in Vancouver. By this time, I was running late!  To be quite frank, I’m not very good at making gnocchi. It’s a dish that requires practice and I have not practiced enough. This was the third attempt at making gnocchi but the first using pumpkin.

Surprisingly, it turned out really well. The gnocchi was light, soft and didn’t leave us feeling like we’re too-stuffed-for-the-next-course. The sage butter sauce combined well with the golden pan-fried gnocchi. I think that a cream based sauce would work too.

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos to go with this post as I ran out of time. However, I have included a few photos from a recent cooking class at Mondo Organics (Post to follow) on pasta which also included making gnocchi.

If you’ve made it before, I’d like to hear about your experience. Tips are welcome too!

making gnocchignocchi

Serves 2 (with leftovers)

Ingredients

  • 1 small butternut pumpkin, peeled, seeds cored out and cut into small pieces (about 300g)
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes (about 300g), boiled in unsalted water
  • 1/2 cup of spelt or strong flour (you may need more depending on the mixture)
  • 2 egg yolks (optional)
  • 6-8 sage leaves
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt to taste

Method

Wrap pumpkin pieces in foil and roast in hot oven (180C) for about 30-40mins. Whilst pumpkin is roasting, boil the potatoes for about 30mins or until tender.

Once potatoes are tender (should be easy to pierce with fork), drain and transfer to a large bowl. When cool enough to handle, remove skin then mash with a fork.  Use a potato ricer or Moule if you have one. Make sure that there are no lumpy bits.

Mash the pumpkin in a separate bowl and then combine with the potatoes using a fork. It’s important to do this when everything is still warm to make sure that the gnocchi ends up light and fluffy.

Fold egg yolks into potato/pumpkin mixture, then add flour gradually, about a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is no longer wet. It should be firm enough to handle and not sticky. Don’t over do it on the flour (more flour = firmer gnocchi). Let it rest for 5 minutes or so.

Divide mixture into four, roll each quarter into a sausage shape 2cm in diameter on a floured surface, then cut into 3cm lengths. Dust with flour and cover with moist tea towel to stop it from drying out.

When ready to use, cook the gnocchi in boiling salted water for about 3 minutes or until they float. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate or transfer to a pan and fry lightly or add to the sauce of choice.

Sage Butter Sauce

  • 50 g salted butter
  • 8 small leaves of sage
  • Grated pecorino or parmesan to taste

Place chopped butter into pan over medium heat and cook until melted. Add sage leaves to pan, cook until butter has turned a nut-brown colour and sage leaves are crisp (5mins or so). Add the gnocchi and pan-fry for a couple of minutes until the edges turn golden.

Tip: If you’ve made a large batch and have more than you need, just place gnocchi on well floured plate, transfer to freezer until frozen then drop them into freezer bag and use when ready.

Wild Mushroom Soup

5 Nov
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I hated mushrooms during my childhood and almost gagged with every mouthful. I would avoid them at all costs, even developed a “mushie-phobia”. I would feel sick as soon as I caught a glimpse of my mother chopping them up. Perhaps it was the rubbery texture that threw me off? I’m not sure.

Nowadays, I love them: oyster, enoki, shitake, shimeji, button, swiss brown, chanterelle, porcini, …cooked any style. I don’t remember how or when I got over my phobia, but I’m glad I did. Have you suffered from a food phobia as a child and grown to like the same food as an adult?

The inspiration for this dish came from a spoonful of porcini mushroom soup which I’d tasted at Vetro, an Italian restaurant in Mumbai. Instead of porcini, I’ve used a mix of chanterelle, oyster and swiss browns. You can use any type that you like. I made this recipe up and served it as part of a 7 course dinner at home. It’s very easy to make and very tasty!

Serves 2 (with leftovers)

Ingredients

  • 3 tbs of butter
  • 1/2 white onion, diced finely
  • 500g of mushrooms, chopped coarsely (reserve a few and roast in oven in foil with a knob of butter for presentation)
  • 2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp of dill, diced finely
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 100ml of thick cream

Method

In a saucepan, melt the butter, saute onion until translucent, then add garlic and cook until garlic is soft.

Add the mushrooms, cover and cook on moderate heat for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms have softened.

Add the stock, bring to the boil, cover and simmer until the mushrooms are tender.

Take off the heat, add half the cream. Use a stick blender or food processor to blitz until smooth.

Ladle into small soup bowels, drizzle the remaining cream and then arrange the roasted mushrooms in the centre.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with croutons (not shown) and garnish with dill.

Tip: When frying croutons in skillet, just add the desired herb or spice to the oil to infuse the croutons.

Spicy Chickpeas, baby eggplants and mushrooms

2 Oct

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I have recently allowed myself to watch a little more TV than the usual rare occasion. Although I’m not a big devotee of the “box”, I don’t mind cooking programs. In particular, I’ve been following River Cottage Veg on the LifeStyle FOOD channel. It’s about an English celebrity chef who takes on a 4 month meat-free pledge. The series has grown on me because I also have recently taken on a similar pledge: to cut my meat consumption by increasing veg in my diet.

I am still a little way off from becoming a vegetarian but I’m definitely enjoying this little challenge. I already eat a good amount of ordinary vegetables, grains and legumes but could be more adventurous. My recent experience with Superfoods has also showed me that healthy meat-free dishes need not be boring or bland. On the contrary, I discovered that there are some interesting textures and tastes which would please most palates. If you looked closer at your next meal, you’ll probably find that many of the ingredients are not meat.

So how did I arrive at this recipe? I just made it up! During an episode of River Cottage Veg, the chef prepared merguez spiced lamb liver as he had been really missing meat on his fork. He didn’t eat any though, just watched his colleagues devour it. Later in the same episode, he went on to make a chickpea curry. Then it came to me: why not combine both merguez spices and chickpeas? So to clear out my fridge and pantry before my next travels, I went rummaging around for ingredients. I came across some beautiful purple and white striped eggplants (spray free of course) and mushrooms. And that’s it, a new dish was born.

You’re probably thinking, “what will he post next, my first protest with PETA?”. Hang in there carnivores! I’ll make sure that the next one includes meat just to balance things out.

Ingredients
1 can of chick peas, drained

6-8 baby eggplants
300g of button mushrooms, chopped into quarters
1tsp caraway seeds
1tsp coriander seeds
1tsp cumin seeds
1/2tsp of cayenne pepper
1/2tsp of smoked paprika
1 clove of garlic, chopped into slivers
1 cup of stock (veg or chicken)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Black pepper
Salt
A handful of parsley or mint, or both, chopped roughly

Directions
Dry fry all seeds in a non-stick pan, then grind in either a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Combine with the rest of the spices and set aside.

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Chop eggplants into bite sized pieces, place in a bowl, add a good sprinkle of salt and massage with a tablespoon of olive oil.

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Heat about a 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick pan, then add baby eggplants and sauté on medium heat stirring frequently until they’re lightly browned.

Add mushrooms and garlic, sauté for a few minutes then add stock and stir through.

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Simmer on low until the stock reduces to about half, then add spices and chickpeas. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Season with pepper and garnish with parsley.

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Serve warm with a good dollop of extra thick yoghurt.

It can also be served with couscous or rice, and of course as a side dish with lamb, beef or meat of choice!

What is Merguez? Its actually a North African lamb or beef sausage. The spices used in the sausage are pretty much summed up in the mix used in this recipe.

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Back to the kitchen…

28 Aug

IMG00627-20120724-2230 It’s not difficult to notice that I have been absent for a while. No I have not abandoned my blog or lost interest in blogging; I’ve spent the last 7 weeks in the land of the Kama Sutra (India of course). Home was a 5 star hotel with multiple restaurants, bars, night club, lounges, delicatessen, beauty parlor, hair salon and a mini shopping plaza with all the expensive labels. But sadly no kitchen.

Some may be wondering why I would need a kitchen when I’m staying in a luxurious hotel? The answer is easy. Satisfaction. Even with a room service menu that spans at least 3 continents, there is still nothing more satisfying than to source your own ingredients, prepare and create.

Whilst I did have the opportunity to taste some amazing food outside the hotel like creative dim sums at Yauatcha, hand-made pasta at Mia Cucina and street food around the Mohammed Ali Road area, I missed being in the kitchen. I still yearned for cooking even though I was immersed in the best Indian cuisine like paneer tikka, dhal makhani, achari tikka, Hyderbadi biryani, dosas, idlis, etc. (trust me the list is much longer)

I did have one opportunity to bash around in the kitchen whilst in Mumbai but that wasn’t without its own challenge. After much anticipation and venturing the streets to source the freshest ingredients, we discovered that the 2 burner was out of gas. So with a little improvisation we exploited every feature of a toaster oven and a petite kitchen (including borrowing a few utensils from the friendly neighbours) to create a delightful dinner.

We prepared an arugula salad with goat cheese, freshly grated beetroot and dressed it with olive oil; vege burgers with a patty of shredded carrot, zucchini, chickpeas, coriander, layered with herbed eggplant slices, a few leaves of cos lettuce and smothered with tahini sauce; and, rosemary potato wedges. It ended up being one of the most satisfying meals: simple to make, tasty and devoured in great company.

So now that I’m back, what’s to come? Several posts including: “I lost my appetite at Noori Mohammed Hotel”, “How to make real falafel” and “Quails the easy way”. So stand by. For now, I’ll leave you with a few photos taken with a Blackberry camera (soon to be overshadowed by the Canon G12).

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