bits and pieces

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Barley Raita with Basil and Cilantro

BARLEY. It sounds weird, rough,  and Scottish.

pearl barley up close
and personal
As it turns out it's DELISH. The original plan for this first attempt recipe was to use quinoa. As well as being a 'super food' it's trendy and tasty. I had gone on a bit of a shopping expedition to Superstore, but really ended up spending an hour at Joe Fresh (LOVE Joe Fresh. LOVE). I was pretty tuckered out by the end of my Fresh-ening up (see what I did there? white and nautical all summer long baby), and spend quickly through the rest of Superstore. In the car on the way home I realized I had forgotten to get quinoa. Curses. I stopped at the grocery store on the way home to pick some up only to discover it was $11 (!!!!). REALLY?! COME ON. So I perused the nutritional info, and compared to various grains and lentils nearby. Barley was less calories, more iron, and just as much protein according to the bag. HMM thought I. So away me and my $1.50 bag of barley went.

I had absolutely no idea how to cook barley, and was a little afraid as I'm consistently pretty bad at cooking rice/couscous/quinoa/lentils/whatever. It's just a mental block I have apparently. But a quick interweb search indicated that barley was easy-peasy to cook. Onwards I ventured. The raita I've made dozens of times before and it's always great. Not only that, I made it with Greek yogurt which is not only nummy but good for you too!  Raita is basically a liquid salad. A traditional accompaniment or dish in Indian cooking, the cool yogurt is often served to cool hot spicy flavours.



The result of this experiment was really good. I would eat this everyday for lunch, as a salad, whatever. I know how weird it sounds but it was EXCELLENT. I served this salad as the base for some garam masala poached snapper and it was great. It's marvellous. The cool refreshing yogurt offset the spicy fish, and the barley gave it a fun texture and bright burst of flavour. I plan on substituting barley for rice and quinoa in many meals to come.

ingredients:
1 cup of pearl barley made more than enough
1 cup chicken stock, 2 cups water (3 cups total)
the zest of 1 lemon

1 cup of Greek yogurt (not Greek yogurt works fine too)
2 tsp toasted cumin
1 tbsp chopped green pepper 
1.5 tbsp chopped cilantro
1-2 tsp chopped basil
1 green onion, chopped
3 inches of cucumber (I know that's a ridiculous unit of measurement), peeled, seeded and diced. 
dash of lemon juice
tiny dash of garlic powder (optional)

other things you will need:
pot for cooking your barley
strainer for rinsing it in first
zester/cheese grater
bowl for mixin'
a spoon
and knives for choppin'

  1. First, if you need to - make your chicken stock. Then bring it and your water to a boil. While you're waiting for this to boil, rinse your 1 cup of barley in cold water for about a minute. 
  2. Once the water is boiling, add half your lemon zest, and your barley. Stir for a minute or so, and then lower to minimum heat and cover. Simmer for 40 minutes. IN THE MEANTIME - 
  3. Toast your cumin. This makes a difference - your spices are way more fragrant and pack more punch. Plus your kitchen smells foreign and dangerous. Simply put your cumin in a dry pan and toast it on med/med-high heat for a few minutes shaking it around as necessary. It will become very fragrant and hot. Remove from heat and toss into your mixing bowl. 
  4. Prep your greens. To seed a cucumber simply chop it in half lengthwise, and then firmly run a spoon along the length of the cucumber removing the seeds. The finer your chop the better. 
  5. Add your Greek yogurt to the bowl and mix with the cumin 
  6. Throw in your greens, and mix all together. Add a squirt of lemon juice and a dash of garlic 
    yogurt and greens. 
    powder (just a bit - too much and you'll end up with a weird tasting tzatziki thing. On that note - if you substitute mint for cilantro you've pretty much got tzatziki). Stick your raita in the fridge and keep it there. The longer it percolates the better. 
  7. after 40 minutes your barley should be done. Cook it for a few more minutes if necessary. It won't be as dry as rice, but it shouldn't be soupy. Risotto-y is OK. Add the rest of your lemon zest, and cool. Take a nibble. Not bad right? 
  8. Simply combine about a cup and a half of your barley with your raita, and mix adding more/less barley as needed to coat thoroughly. 


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