Thursday, 9 June 2011

Barley Legal

Insalata d' Orzo con Patate, Salsiccia & Erbe Aromatiche
Pearl Barley Salad with Potato, Sausage and Mixed Herbs

There are lots of old-fashioned foods that people never think of eating anymore... just as there are many that no one would bother to eat if they weren't suddenly made fashionable again. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing! 

Arugula, or "rocket", was considered to be a weed for years, until it made a revival in the 90's. It seems hard to imagine a salad without at least a little of arugula now- it has probably got to the point that most people claim to be "fed up" with it. Which I tend to think is really silly- if it is good food, then it is good food- period! 

Couscous and bulgur seem to be terribly "in" at the moment- basically because I think that people think of them as being exotic as a lot of Arabic cuisines use them. But these are just simple grains- and we have plenty of grains in our own culture that we can also re-discover... like the humble pearl barley for example...

I boiled the barley, together with a fine dice of carrots and celery, for 15 minutes in salted water and then let it sit and steam for a further 15 off the heat. After this time it will be tender and soft, with still enough bite to be chewy and delicious. The carrot and celery give it a little body and round off the flavor... but we are going to knock that right out of the box in the next 15 minutes- so fear not!   
I used 2 cups of barley and one potato, which was enough for 2 portions. I wanted to have the potato par- boiled for this dish- so I just popped it into the saucepan with the barley for 10 minutes and fished it out when I turned off the heat. Be practical, take short-cuts, avoid making too much mess when you can keep things simple! It's simple!

I put a few slices of sausage into my Teflon pan again- you know the score by now. Let the fat render and in the meantime, slice your potato and add it, so that all that flavor gets integrated. Don't stir it around too much- give both the sausage and the potato enough time to get toasty and brown... this will take between 10 and 15 minutes, so be patient. In the meantime you can finely chop some mint, parsley, rosemary and chives. Pluck a few extra mint leaves for your garnish later and quarter some cherry tomatoes. Think ahead, manage your time and things will just be so much better. Hmmm- that only took 10 minutes, didn't it? Ok- well for those last 5 minutes, pop a few slices of celery into the pan too for a bit of extra crunch and we are ready to add our seasoning and get this all put together. This is going to be a refreshing and Summery dish- you will be surprised at how versatile barley can be!

Ok- first things first! Take a few shaving of peel from a lemon and then chop as finely as you can. Set to one side and squeeze the juice over the barley. Add the chopped herbs, a couple of finely sliced spring onions and a little toasted sesame oil and toss well together. Carefully add the other ingredients- be gentle with it as it would be a shame to break up those potatoes or to stir it too briskly and turn everything into a clumpy mess. Season with sea salt, pepper, nutmeg, green Tabasco and a little coriander powder... delicious! Decorate with the cherry tomatoes and mint and serve it up either lukewarm or cold. Although for some reason I am picturing you eating it warm like I did... because I bet you won't be able to wait either!


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