I bring home some of the craziest things from the farmers’ market, and often after I’ve used them once, I don’t use them again for say, another six months? This drives my mum up a wall, and occasionally, me when I’m rummaging through our pantry and can’t find an ingredient. At any point there are at least two kinds of millet, five kinds of rice, some couscous, coloured quinoa that I’m never in the mood for, semolina and so much other stuff that I’m basically a grocer.
Being sick for a whole weekend means I can take a breather and sift through all this mess with a cuppa joe, and not lose my mind over it. I had an excess of pearl barley and red rice to work with over the week and decided to use the new Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall River Cottage Veg book as a guide to create some spectacular dishes. This as my own version of Diwali cleaning and the recipes are so good, I just have to share it.
Two out of three recipes link back to some old condiments from the website that I keep going back to, and once you’ve made them, you’ll understand why. My homemade Harissa paste is super potent in comparison to what you buy off the shelf, and so I advise caution when using too much. The Khatti dal masala that sits in our fridge ready to use, can be used for a lot more, like this pearl barley risotto-ish preparation below with oyster mushrooms and spinach.
Creamy Oyster Mushrooms and Spinach with Pearl Barley
The spice mix does wonders for this veg pearl barley risotto with oyster mushrooms and spinach. Coconut milk’s sweetness balances out that playful bitter coriander flavour from the khatti dal masala, while oyster mushrooms and spinach are a delicious bonus
Pearl barley 1 packet or 100g, pre-cooked in salted boiling water till tender and drained
Khatti dal masala 1 tbsp (find the recipe here)
Vegetable oil 2 tbsp
Onion 1 large, quartered and roughly chopped
Oyster mushrooms 200g, long stems trimmed and washed (I got mine from Offerings Farms)
Ginger 3/4 tbsp freshly grated
Garlic 3 cloves, freshly grated
Green chilli 1, slit and chopped at a diagonal into 4 pieces
Coconut milk 1 tetra pack or 200ml
Spinach 1 small bunch, 150g
Lemon juice and zest 1/2 lemon or 1 lime
Salt and pepper
Fresh coriander to finish
In a frying pan, heat a tablespoon of oil and when quite hot, arrange the oyster mushrooms leaving space between them so as to not overcrowd the pan. You can do this in batches. When the mushrooms have browned on both sides, transfer them to a plate and set aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium high heat and add in the onions. Cook the onions till translucent before adding in the ginger and garlic. I ask for freshly grated because I want the juices of both to become a part of the creamy final product.
To this, add in the khatti dal masala, a spot of water and give everything a good stir to activate the spices. Pour in the coconut milk, scraping up any brown bits at the bottom of the pan with it and bring this mixture up to a simmer. Add in the washed, roughly chopped spinach and let it wilt for a few minutes in the heat before adding in the mushrooms and pearl barley. Bring it up to a simmer again, letting it reduce slightly, season with sat and pepper, then finish with the lemon juice and zest. Taste and adjust before serving.
The second pearl barley preparation is a bit of a play around the idea of a tagine, that lovely fragrant stew that brings together strong flavours of preserved lemon, fiery harissa, and sweet plump prunes or apricots. In this pearl barley version, I’ve sparingly used my harissa paste and used raisins to add sweetness.
Harissa-spiced Pearl Barley Risotto
Much like proper risotto, this harissa-spiced version with pearl barley dries out if cooked and left aside, so you need to serve this right out of the pan with a slight bit of liquid still in there, so that as someone’s eating, it takes its time to dry out.
Pearl barley 1 packet, 100g, washed and left soaked until needed
Olive oil 2 tbsp
Onion 1 large, thinly sliced
Bay leaf 1
Cinnamon stick 1/2
Garlic 3 cloves, bashed in and chopped
Turmeric 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder 1/2 tsp (or more, if using storebought harissa paste which would be milder than my version)
Hot water or chicken stock 500-750ml
Harissa 1/2 tbsp-1 tbsp depending on how hot you want it (I used my own very potent harissa, you can find the recipe for that here, but you can use store-bought harissa too if you like. Just up the quantity of the harissa by a tablespoon if you do)
Dried raisins/sultanas 100g, chopped
Dried apricots 100g, chopped
Lemon zest 1 tsp
Salt and pepper
In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium-heat and add in the onions. Let the onions brown nicely for about 7-8 minutes stirring often. Add in the garlic and let this cook for another minute. Throw in the whole spices and stir everything together to activate them.
Add in the turmeric and red chilli powder with a wee bit of the stock or water so that the spices don’t burn. Cook for a few seconds, before adding in the pearl barley and tossing everything together so that the grains are well coated.
Splash in the stock bit by bit, stirring the pearl barley and letting it cook like risotto before adding in more stock. Stir in the harissa, chopped dried fruit and lemon zest, if necessary, just before finishing the risotto. Season the whole dish with salt and pepper and taste.
The last recipe, possibly my favourite, is a traybake of tomatoes and onions, garlic and sweet limes or seasonal mosambi. Once everything is cooked down to a pulpy soft mess, you must briskly tip everything into cooked rice. As you swish everything together gently, they break down, and the juices emulsify into a silky sauce that coats each grain. The bold flavours are what really attracts me to this dish, and it’s a great way to use up leftover rice. I used red rice here, but you can use any rice of your choice, keeping in mind that if your rice from last night is squidgy soft, each grain wont stand for itself.
Roasted Tomatoes and Sweet Limes with Red Rice
Keeping the sweet limes on top of the tomatoes and onions means that it’s closer to the heat source, and this is intentional, because once they begin to scorch, their oils release so much flavour into the contents of the pan underneath.
Cooked red rice or any other rice 150-200g
Mixed cherry tomatoes 500g, halved (if using regular tomatoes, up the sugar by another tablespoon)
Onions 2 medium-sized, quartered
Garlic cloves 4 bashed in and roughly chopped
Sweet lime/Mosambi 1/2, cut into pieces, skin, pith and all
Thyme 2-3 sprigs
Chilli powder 1 1/2 tsp
Sugar 1 tbsp
Olive oil 3 tbsp
Balsamic vinegar 2 tsp
Salt and pepper
Freshly chopped coriander 2 tbsp
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and in a baking tray, arrange snugly the tomatoes, onions, garlic, keeping the sweet limes on top. Sprinkle over salt and pepper, the chilli powder, sugar and thyme.
Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and transfer the tray to the oven to cook for about 30 minutes or until everything is falling apart as you stir through it with a spoon.
If you are cooking your rice fresh, now would be the time you start on it as it too would take about 20-30 minutes if well-soaked beforehand.
When all the veg is done roasting, in a saucepan, tip the contents of the tray including the juices left behind. Then, add in the rice and an additional drizzle of olive oil. Stir this briefly over medium-high heat till the juices reduce a bit and become a silky sauce that costs the rice. Season once again if necessary and serve garnished with fresh coriander.