Friday, November 26, 2010

A Flavour of the Past

As I've been harping on the advantage of using the cheaper grains, today am giving a couple of recipes based on pearl barley. The first being a substantial winter soup, guaranteed to warm us up on the coldest of days. It also makes good use of other ingredients we may already have in store. As some foods can be substituted for another - am giving alternatives in the list of ingredients. Despite the first recipe serving a large number of people, worth making this amount a day or two before wishing to eat, to give the flavours a chance to develop. Keep chilled, and then reheat thoroughly when wishing to serve.

Beef and Barley Soup: serves 6 - 8
1 lb (450g) stewing beef, cut into small chunks
2 large onions, finely chopped
3.5 pints (2 ltrs) cold water
1 beef stock cube
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) pearl barley
2 oz (50g) split peas (green or yellow), or red lentils
2 white turnips, peeled and diced (or use swede, parsnip etc)
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 - 3 large carrots, diced
1 large leek, thinly sliced (opt)
chopped fresh parsley to serve (opt)
Put the meat and onions into a large saucepan pan with the water and crumbled stock cube. Add seasoning to taste (when using a stock cube, omit salt and just add pepper). Bring to the simmer, stirring from time to time to dissolve the stock cube, then add the barley and split peas. Bring back to the boil, skimming off any scum that appears. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for half an hour, then add the rest of the prepared vegetables, return to the simmer, cover and cook for a further hour or until the meat and vegetables are tender. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
Serve in large bowls, garnishing with a sprinkling of chopped parsley (if using).

This next recipe uses butternut squash and shallots, but pumpkin (or other squash), parsnips, turnips or swede could be substituted for the squash (or a mixture), and leeks or onions for the shallot. Any type of mushroom works well with this dish, and if you have dried shiitake mushrooms (or similar) these - when hydrated - add a really rich flavour to this dish. Although Parmesan is the chosen cheese, no reason why a well flavoured hard cheese (such as Cheddar) can be finely grated and used in its place. Always worth keeping oddments of hard cheese unwrapped in the fridge to grate down, as the harder it is the finer it will grate. Then store it in a container in the freezer to use as and when.

Barley Risotto: serves 4
6 oz (175g) pearl barley
4 tblsp olive oil
1 small butternut squash, peeled and seeds removed
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
1 oz (25g) butter
3 large banana shallots (or two onions) sliced
1 clove garlic
5 oz (150g) mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, grated
5 fl oz (150ml) vegetable stock
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese, grated (or other hard cheese)
2 - 3 tblsp pumpkin or sunflower seeds (or chopped walnuts)
salt and pepper
Rinse the barley, then cook in simmering water, part covering the pan, for approx 45 minutes, or until the barley is tender, then drain and set aside.
Put the prepared squash in a roasting tin with the garlic clove and half the thyme. Season with pepper and sprinkle over half the oil, toss well, then roast at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for half an hour or until the squash is tender and beginning to char at the edges.
Meanwhile, heat half the butter with the remaining oil in a large frying pan. Stir in the shallots and saute for five minutes, then add the mushrooms and remaining thyme and cook until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and true frying begins. This is the time to stir in the carrots and fry for a further 2 minutes, then add the cooked and drained barley, and 3 fl.oz of the vegetable stock. Season well, and part-cover the pan. After five minutes check and if necessary add some or all of the remaining stock if the mixture is too dry.
Finally, stir in the parsley, the remaining butter and half the cheese. Squeeze the roasted garlic to release the soft centre,and stir this into the mixture, followed by the roasted squash. Season to taste, and serve with a sprinkling of chosen seeds and the remaining cheese.