Love risotto in winter? Feel guilty about all that starchy rice and Parmesan? This pearl barley risotto is a healthier option and it’s also delicious. I tried this mushroom and spinach pearl barley risotto the other day and my boyfriend gave it the enthusiastic thumbs up, so now it’s a regular on cold wintry nights. I haven’t tried to make pearl barley with anything else but I’ve seen recipes for it with roasted pumpkin, which I imagine would be rather tasty.
On a separate note, I went mushroom foraging this week at Delheim Wine Estate and was treated to a three-course mushroom lunch. I’m now so into mushrooms I’m cooking them for practically ever supper. No more button mushrooms for me – it’s all about shiitake, enoki and shimeji from now on. All these exotics are taking me back to when I lived in Taiwan and there were no buttons to be found. Instead we bought strange-looking mushrooms from the supermarket and veggie market, with no idea what they were (although they were yummy).
Mushroom, spinach and goats cheese pearl barley risotto
2 big leeks or 5 baby leeks, chopped
One tablespoon crushed garlic
A big pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
400 g of mushrooms (be adventurous – I used a mixture of portabellini, shimeji, shiitaki and enoki), chopped roughly
200 ml white wine
200 g pearl barley
750 ml warm vegetable stock
150 g spinach
50 g (or more, up to you) chevin/goats cheese (I like one encrusted with garlic and herbs)
A handful of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Fry the leeks in a glug of olive oil until they’ve started to soften, and then add the garlic (and chilli) and fry for a further minute or two. Add the chopped mushrooms at this point, keep the heat on medium, and cook until the mushrooms start to emit water (about five minutes). Add the pearl barley and mix well to coat it, and cook for a minute or two. Pour in the white wine, turn up the heat a bit and wait until the wine has reduced by about half. Now add the stock slowly, ladleful by ladleful until it’s all used up. Stir for a bit, turn the heat down so the risotto is simmering and put the lid on. Go and relax for thirty minutes, giving it a stir every now and then. When the pearl barley is tender and the stock is almost all absorbed, stir in the spinach leaves and continue to stir until they’ve wilted. At this point stir in the parsley and take it off the heat. Serve the pearl barley risotto in deep bowls with slices of goats cheese on top and loads of black pepper.
It’s the start of the new year, and as always, my resolution is to cook more and eat more healthily. The key to both of these is easy cooking. None of my recipes take long to make, but some of them require a bit of planning and some a lot of chopping, so this year I’m really going to try and come up with recipes where you can throw a bunch of things in your fridge together in less than 30 minutes. This is one of those recipes. I didn’t plan it – I just had a whole lot of veggies in my fridge and some quinoa in my cupboard and I felt like a quick curry. This dish really couldn’t be simpler. If you’ve never made a curry before because you thought it was hard – try this.
250 g courgettes, chopped
2 medium aubergines, chopped into smallish pieces
1 onion, chopped finely
1 red pepper, chopped
1 tin of chickpeas
1 tin of chopped, peeled tomatoes
1 cup of quinoa
1 heaped tsp hot curry powder
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp tumeric
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
A couple of dried curry leaves
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 tsp dried chilli flakes (if you want the curry spicy)
Handful fresh coriander
Handful of flaked almonds (optional)
Fresh mint and basil (optional)
1/2 a lemon
Feta, to crumble on top (optional)
Make the quinoa according to the packet instructions.
Meanwhile, fry the onions (I use coconut oil for frying when making curries – it’s much better than olive oil) and when they’ve softened a bit, add the garlic. Fry for another minute or two and then add all the curry spices and leaves. Mix well and fry until fragrant. Add the aubergine and courgettes and cider vinegar and fry for another five minutes or so (you may want to add a bit more oil at this stage if it’s a bit dry). Pour in the tinned tomato and turn down the heat so it’s simmering. Stir occasionally and add the red pepper and chickpeas after about five minutes. After adding the tinned tomatoes, the curry needs to cook for around 10 – 12 minutes, or until thickened.
Once the quinoa has cooked, squeeze in half a lemon, season with black pepper and chop up some fresh basil and mint if you have it. It’s not essential to add the herbs, but I love herby quinoa and I think they make it a bit more interesting. You only really need a tablespoon or so of each herb. I also love adding almonds to the quinoa for some crunch – mix in a handful or two if you have them.
When the curry is ready, serve it on top of a helping of quinoa with fresh coriander on top. I like crumbling feta over the curry, even though it doesn’t traditionally go with curry. I don’t cook with salt, so I find feta adds a bit of a salty kick to the dish.
A pasta salad popped out of a friend’s picnic bag at a wine tasting picnic I was at last weekend and it was delicious – just the right combo of saltiness (feta), crunchiness (cucumber) and soft creaminess (av0). Since then I’ve been so into pasta salads – they’re perfect for an easy dinner, cold lunch and of course, picnics. This is my ultimate pasta salad, but you can always add all manner of other goodies to this basic recipe.
Serves 6 generously
500 g small pasta shells
1 cucumber, chopped into smallish pieces
500 g rosa or cherry tomatoes, halves
2 mielies, cooked (I do this in the microwave) and kernels removed
Half a packed of black olives, pitted and chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped into small pieces
1 red pepper, chopped into small pieces
120 g feta, chopped into small squares
Canola or olive oil
Pinch of sugar
Cook the pasta and let it cool in a colander. Once it’s cooled down, pour into a large bowl and mix in all the ingredients. To make the dressing, combine about three tablespoons of oil with one or two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of mustard, a pinch of sugar and lots of black pepper and shake up in a jam jar. These are not exact measurements though – add more oil, vinegar or mustard to your taste. To transport the salad for a picnic, I keep the dressing in the jar and pour it on only when we get there.
I recently bought a juicer because I’m completely addicted to carrot and ginger juice and I reckoned it would be cheaper to start making my own. Juicing is a big mission – you need so much fruit and veg to make a small amount of juice (now I know why the juices were so expensive at the health shop). I’m still loving making my own juices though. My favourite combo at the moment is carrot, beetroot, apple and ginger. It’s zingy and fresh and makes me feel healthy just thinking about it.
The only thing with juicing is that you produce so much waste. All the dehydrated stuff you’ve juiced just gets thrown away. I love beetroot burgers (Kauai used to make a delicious one) so I decided to use the carrot, beetroot and ginger pulp that came out of the juicer as the base for burger patties. The result is fibre-rich, dense and slightly crunchy burgers (with the help of seeds and chickpeas) which are incredibly easy to make.
If you don’t have a juicer, you could grate the carrots, ginger and beetroot and then squeeze all the juice out of them. It makes things much easier if the juicer does all the work for you though!
Makes 6 patties
2 cups of carrot, ginger and beetroot pulp (go easy on the ginger though)
1 tin of chickpeas, drained and mashed with a fork
Half a cup of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and linseeds
2 free-range eggs
Combine the seeds, pulp, chickpeas and eggs together and mix well. Add a dash of soy sauce, balsamic and tabasco, a generous pinch of cumin and a fair sprinkling of cayenne pepper. Season well with black pepper. Taste the mixture and if it’s a bit bland add more soy, tabasco or balsamic. Mould the mixture into patties and place them on a lightly oiled baking tray. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes at 190 C until slightly hardened on top and then turn over and bake for another 10 minutes. Serve with salad, sweet potato wedges or roast vegetable cous cous.
Quiches are ultimate vegetarian food – they’re protein-rich and can be improvised with all manner of tasty veggie ingredients, from feta, butternut, caramelised onion, sundried tomato, to grated courgette, fried mushroom and blue cheese.
My boyfriend’s mum, Wendy, whom I get a lot of delicious veggie recipes from, makes this delicious and easy leek quiche often. It’s very leeky, which I love. I like it served with a bit of strongish wholegrain mustard and some balsamic-dressed peppery rocket.
Makes one large quiche
500 g leeks, sliced finely
170 g mature cheddar, grated
5 large free range eggs
700 ml milk
140 g flour
85 g butter
To make the pastry, mix the flour and butter together to form breadcrumbs. Add cold water until a dough is formed. Roll out the dough to make a circle big enough for the quiche dish you’re using. Push into a greased tart dish.
To make the filling, whisk together eggs and milk and season with black pepper. Add grated cheese and leeks. Pour into the pastry and bake at 180C for one hour.