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Ratatouille and barley

11 Mar
ratatouille, sour cream, vegan, vegetarian, Mediterranean recipe, colourful food, barley

Suzie’s first taste of ratatouille

An extravagant dish for winter, when all the ingredients come in from Turkey, but there are days wen you just can’t resist the lure of summer, still four months away. In summer, all these delicious Mediterranean veg are very cheap here in Romania.

What:

2 large aubergines (eggplants)

3 courgettes (zucchini)

1 enormous red (bell) pepper (or several small ones)

1 large onion

4 big cloves of garlic

4 tbps tomato paste

basil leaves

cayenne pepper, salt & black pepper

big pinch of mixed dried herbs (or handful of fresh ones)

How:

Chop the aubergines, turn them in oil and mixed herbs and roast on high heat for half an hour.

Chop onion, garlic and red pepper and sizzle gently in oil (separate pan) until soft and smelling delicious. Mix in the tomato paste (I’d use fresh tomatoes in summer) and a bit of water to make a sauce.

Chop the courgette into inch-square chunks and add to the tomato pan, with some basil leaves. Mix everything together and turn the heat down to the minimum (or turn it off) until the aubergine is done (browned or slightly charred, soft and aromatic).

Tip the aubergines into the main pan, mix, season to taste, and simmer slowly for another 20 minutes.

Serve with boiled barley (preferably whole grain, not pearl barley), or brown rice.

Vegan at this point, but a dollop of soured cream on top will render it veggie.

(Carnivores can eat this with a bit of grilled pork or chicken, or lamb cutlets.)

Mock lobster (vegetarian)

11 Mar
Mock lobster, vegetarian recipe, tomato, onion, egg, rice, colourful food, cheap supper, flavour

Mock lobster and rice

Anyone else know this one? It may be a family thing, I’m guessing from World War 2 when rationing in the UK meant cooks got creative.

This is a delicious variation on tomato-and-onion sauce for rice or pasta; the pink colour is the only link with lobster – there’s no fishy taste at all.

Definitive cheap, easy and delicious recipe.

What:

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

2 tsps tomato paste

1 large onion

1 clove garlic

2 eggs

1 tbsp cream or sour cream*

4 basil leaves, ripped

Parsley to garnish

* my variation. Would definitely not have been in a wartime-rationing recipe.

How:

Chop onion and garlic finely and sizzle gently in oil till transparent and soft.

Add tomato paste and stir for two minutes till everything’s bubbling.

Add tinned tomatoes and let everything sizzle for another couple of minutes.

Add basil and seasoning (salt, pepper, etc to your taste)

Beat eggs with sour cream and a little bit of water, then add into tomato mix. Turn up the heat and sizzle hard, till egg is cooked and everything is bright pink.

Serve with rice or carb of your choosing; scatter parsley on top, and eat.

The great chicken plan

10 Jul
English: Chicken and rabbit meat pie

Ah, yes, and chicken pie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s cunning. It’s cheap, easy, delicious and cheap. Did I mention easy? This is my once-a-week thing.

Step 1 – acquire chicken.

Step 2 – put chicken in big pot and fill with water.

Step 3 – bring to boil then simmer for 2 hours on low-ish heat.

Step 3 – let it cool in the pot

Step 4 – when cool, take most of meat off bones for humans and put in fridge

Step 5 – take all the rest of the meat, gristle, skin, unidentifiable brown bits from inside, put in another container in fridge.

Step 6 – put bones, now reduced to small heap, in third container, in fridge.

Step 7 – pour delicious rich stock into container and put in fridge.

Now you have:

a) tender meat for making into risotto, pasta sauce, pate, potted chicken, sandwiches, salads, stir fries, fricassee, etc.

b) stock for soup, risotto, etc

c) bits of meat that you would discard that your pets will eat with enormous pleasure

d) heap of soft bones for stray dogs or foxes – or if none of those hungry creatures are local to you, for the dustbin.

Result: every day I have soup for lunch, made from the chicken stock, a little seasoning, any leftover rice, barley, pasta, potato, white sauce, cream cheese etc that’s in the fridge, and a bit of fresh or leftover veg. Cram in small saucepan, heat through till everything’s yummy, and eat.

I also have the makings of creamy chicken risotto, quick sandwiches, salad of chicken bits, leaves, cucumber, celery, fresh herbs, with olive oil and fresh lime juice dressing; there’s my delish coronation slaw, too (more later).

Cats are veryvery happy with their bits, and hungry dogs get the bones – soft enough not to splinter and choke them.

Everyone wins (except the chicken).

Tuna and cauliflower barley pilaf

3 Jun
English: Cauliflower Ελληνικά: Κουνουπίδι

English: Cauliflower Ελληνικά: Κουνουπίδι (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love risotto and pilaf dishes, which are endlessly versatile, easy to cook and easy to eat, gentle on the pocket and as healthy as you like.

Last night I was running out of fridge potential. A shopping trip is looming, today or tomorrow, but there’s still plenty to work with, despite the almost-empty fridge. One of my perennial store cupboard ingredients is pearl barley (barley – arpacas – in Romania, pearl barley in UK). Cauliflowers are cheap at the moment, and high on the simple-to-prepare-and-cook chart. Tinned tuna is always on standby.

What: barley/pearl barley, cauliflower, tin of tuna, fresh herbs, black pepper and tiny bit of salt

How: Boil the barley. This can take about 40 mins or a bit longer, depending on the eficiency of your stove, so put the barley on and go and do something else, because everything else takes 10 mins. When the barley’s done, drain and put the lid back on the pan to keep the barley warm.

Put a little oil in a pan (or drain the oil from the tuna, if canned in oil. If canned in brine, add that to the oil in the pan). Wash and chop the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces and lob into pan. Sizzle gently for 5 minutes, then add the tuna, seasoning and most of the herbs (eg basil, thyme, chives) and sizzle for another 5 mins till cauli is done to your preferred balance of crunch/tender. Stir in the barley and serve, topping with the rest of the chopped herbs. If you like a bit of yoghurt on top, a spoonful or two is good, but naked is also good.

Healthy stuff: cauliflower, esp if not overcooked; tuna, herbs. I have no idea of the health value of barley, but it’s a whole grain without the gluten of wheat.

Enjoy!

 

White heaven

24 May
Yoghurt

Yoghurt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1979 I went to work in Athens for a year; on the first Friday I was presented with a white lunch. Turned out Fridays were fast days in the household, which meant a plate of plain boiled rice and plain yoghurt. White food, white plate. What the hell is this? I thought, not thrilled at the sight.

But when I took a mouthful, I discovered that white was wonderful. The saltiness, heat and texture of the rice with the smooth, cold, tangy, fresh, creamy yoghurt (this is the full fat miracle that is proper Greek yoghurt), was heavenly. I promise you, it’s utterly delicious.

How simple do you want? Boil long-grain (preferably basmati) rice in salted water until done (grains separate with a tiny bit of bite in the centre, not soft or mushy). Drain, serve on plate or in bowl with a large dollop of Greek yoghurt (not the strained stuff, the fresh lemony-tasting creamy stuff) on top. Eat. 

Tell me how you find it. I’ve eaten it ever since 1979, and never get tired of it. You could try it with brown basmati rice for a change – you’d lose the white factor, but the taste would be even better. You could chop some fresh chives, parsley, coriander or basil on top, if you like, or a sprinkle of paprika or cayenne; some toasted sesame seeds or flaked almonds.

But the whole point of this is the apparent blandness which disguises a taste sensation.

What’s your favourite fasting dish?