Sydney has finally ‘dried out’ and we have seen a return to summer and a much awaited respite from the torrential rain of last week. I am delighted to see the sun shining and an end to the grey, rainy days……
Moving from rainy days to grainy days (yes I agree a bit corny but I’m looking for a segue, so please be kind!). Of late I have become a wee bit obsessed with grains. Wikipedia states that; “grains are small, hard, dry seeds, with or without attached hulls or fruit layers, harvested for human or animal consumption.” Ok …somewhat dry….but all I know is I love them in all their varieties!Rice, that lovely cereal grain & grass seed (thanks Wikipedia) with so many varieties and so many uses. We have been in a good relationship for ages…. Carnaroli & Aborio for Risotto, Calasparra for Paella, my go to Brown Rice for pretty much everything (yum!), white long grain for Fried Rice, Basmati for curries, Jasmine for Thai, plus the rice used in the baked custards of my childhood … the list goes on and on. Polenta is a dish made from Cornmeal, the coarsely ground meal from dried maize, and is not a grain itself. Now, so as I don’t have to repeat myself, let it be said that Wikipedia was heavily referenced for this post. Polenta and I have been hanging out for years and either soft with braised meats, ragu’s or casseroles, or firm and grilled, it is another one of my comfort foods (I have to admit to quite a few actually).
Couscous, also is not a grain but a traditional North African dish of Semolina, is the coarse, purified wheat middlings of durum wheat. This is a handy & no fuss food which I became involved with in my early 30s and it sits proudly with the other ‘grains’ in the pantry to be used as a quick accompaniment for saucy vegetable and meat dishes. I find the taste is further enhanced by the addition of a few dots of unsalted butter stirred through when warm & ready to serve. Often nuts and dried fruit are added to couscous.There are some recent love affairs/ new comers to my table;
Barley, a member of the grass family and one of the first ever cultivated grains. This tasty little beauty has become a dear friend recently and even some of my girlfriends have fallen for its nutty charms after I shared a dish I provided for one of our “Girls Nights Out “, which on this occasion was actually a Christmas ‘Girls Night In’. The dish was a variation of a Rick Stein recipe I scribbled down whilst watching his fabulous BBC series, ‘From Venice to Istanbul’, in which he travels/eats his way through the countries of the former Byzantine Empire. So far I have only used it in salads, but we are only just starting to get our groove on & I will be looking for some Risotto action from this versatile grain in coming weeks.My relationship with Freekeh can only be counted in days, but I feel we will get nice and cosy as time goes on. Freekeh , or farik, is a cereal food made from green wheat that goes through a roasting process. It tastes wonderful and really holds its bite. Given it’s only early I have only used it in a warm salad and unfortunately didn’t snap a photo… an opportunity for a future story/ Instagram post.
Quinoa and I are still in the flirting stages, although one of my gorgeous daughters is in a full on love affair with this species of the goosefoot genus, grown for its edible seeds. Quinoa is similar to buckwheat and my husband is firmly of the opinion it’s the hipster grain of today and must be eaten whilst drinking something very healthy served in a jar! Regardless of his derision, Quinoa, which has many varieties tastes wonderful; it makes great salads and sides and will get a serious work out in my kitchen this year.
Farro is a food composed of the grains of certain wheat species & one I am yet to snuggle up to – but I am definitely eyeing it off! For inspiration I am looking to one of my new cookbooks, Nopi by Yotam Ottolenghi & Ramael Scully, which was one of my much appreciated Christmas gifts.Finally, as it was cooler and rainy this past week my mind turned to baked chicken & when thinking of a side dish I decided to use what remained of a packet of ‘Black Pearl Medley’ I had in the pantry. The combination of Black Pearl Barley & Brown Rice is a good one and it made me ponder on what other combinations would work well together. The chicken recipe is one I have been working on for a while and appeals to my truffle obsession. I was quite happy with the result.
Bon appetit & happy cooking,
4 Chicken thighs
1.5 Tsp Truffle honey –can substitute plain honey but then increase the truffle mustard
20 mls truffle mustard
15 mls truffle oil
30g unsalted butter
4o mls olive oil
Preheat oven to 180C
- Mix honey, mustard and truffle oil and using a pastry brush coat the chicken thighs. Set aside for 15 to 20 mins.
- Heat the olive oil and butter over a medium heat in thick bottomed pan. Add the chicken to hot pan skin side down and cook until brown, turn over and brown the other side.
- Transfer to oven proof dish and cook in preheated oven for 20 mins or until cooked through.
Black Barley & Brow Rice Medley with Mediterranean Vegetables
2 cups of Black Barley & Brown Rice Medley – or mix equal amounts of barley & brown rice
4 cups of boiling salted water
1/2 red capsicum diced
1/2 green or yellow capsicum diced
1/2 zucchini thinly sliced and quartered
1/2 red onion diced
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley
- Note any combination of Mediterranean style vegetables can be used. Depending on what your using this with and/or taste, chilli flakes could be added to give it an extra kick!
- Add barley mix to boiling water, turn down to low heat, put the lid on and cook until water is absorbed (20 – 30 min)
- Whilst barley mix is cooking, sweat off the capsicum, zucchini, onion and fennel seed. Set aside once soft but not browned.
- Combine cooked vegetable with barley rice mix and stir through most of the parsley, holding a little back for garnish.
Serve chicken atop of the rice mix, spoon over baking juices and sprinkle remaining parsley over the top.