Barley Salad with Spring Vegetables

Barley Salad with Spring Vegetables

In the blink of the eye, it’s April. What? Where did the time go? I’m quite sure that it was just the other night when I was doing my usual New Year routine…falling asleep wa-aaay before midnight, and here we are, and it’s April already. I think I write this every year. And yet every year, without fail, I can’t fathom how quickly the time passes. 

However, I do see the time passing…everyday as I look in the mirror! I see it in my children who are growing up so quickly that they’re not little  kids anymore. Even my baby turns 11 this year; him growing up is the hardest for me to wrap my head around. I know that’s how life works but it’s still very hard to get older and watch your children growing up and getting older themselves. I think what’s even harder is when you can remember your youth like it was yesterday. 

Barley Salad with Spring Vegetables

Ok, enough of this getting older business! I’m just happy that I don’t let my age define me, in my mind, I’m still 21 🙂

So, how about all this spring loveliness? I may be a winter person, but I love when spring finally makes an appearance and everything begins to turn this beautiful green. The shops begin to liven up with spring colours and flavours. I know I’m not the only one who gets excited to see mounds of ruby red rhubarb, stacks of asparagus neatly tied up in bunches, zesty purple tinged spring onions and bulbs of pungent green garlic. The vibrant citrus of winter gives away to the feathery lushness of spring. I love how Mother Nature gives us so much joy every season with a variety of fruits and vegetables and an abundance of happy colours to keep our souls and tummies nourished.

Barley Salad with Spring Vegetables

Colorado’s growing season is still a while away. But this is one time I will buy non local because I’m tired of eating winter root vegetables! I need colour, I need freshness, I need variety! The farmers markets are starting up now but are mainly stocked with seedlings and plants. It won’t be till June when we get Colorado produce, and I cannot wait! My local farm stand carries a lot of green house grown produce right now and they are finishing up their fall and winter harvest. 

I didn’t realise how much I missed the green until we went to the Pacific Northwest a couple of weeks ago. It was such a difference between grey, snowy Colorado. Spring was in full force and it was really soul lifting to see the vibrant greenery and the colourful bulbs, all in full bloom. The incredibly, fragrant cherry blossoms laid out a snowy carpet under each tree and I came across a couple of heady honeysuckle bushes too and just stood there breathing in the heavy scent. 

Cherry Blossoms

I was really excited to be visiting that part of the country and looked forward to putting my camera to good use. Yeah….spring in the Pacific Northwest…nothing but rain. Every. Single. Day. All my photos ended up being taken with my iPhone. They’re not bad but not quite the artistic works I was hoping for! I was asked to share some, so here are my excellent iPhone photos. The photos maybe blah, but the experience was wonderful. I really enjoyed my time in a beautiful part of the country.

Portland port/downtown

Downtown Portland by the water

 

Downtown Seattle from the Bainbridge Island ferry

Downtown Seattle from the Bainbridge Island ferry

 

Ferris wheel at the Seattle port

Ferris wheel by the Pike Place Market

 

Flower stalls at Pike Place Market

Flower stalls at Pike Place Market

 

One of the many fish stalls at the market

One of the many fish stalls at the market

 

More fish!

More fish!

 

Home away from home!!

Home away from home!!

This salad is a spring take on a winter salad I was making for many of the events at work. It ended up being quite the hit with lots of requests for the recipe. In that particular salad, I was using Farro grain tossed with roasted sweet potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and fresh spinach that was wilted in the heat of the warm salad. The whole salad was tossed in a sweet tart balsamic dressing and lots of fresh, citrusy herbs to liven up the heavy salad. Since winter is over, I have redone the salad with spring vegetables, this can be served warm, room temperature or cold, since these spring vegetables work well in all temperatures. I’m not a fan of raw mushrooms so I always cook mine but feel free to keep them raw if you don’t mind them that way.

Barley Salad with Spring Vegetables

It’s a great accompaniment to roasted or grilled meats and you really don’t need anything else. I roasted my harissa chicken and we had this salad along side. Since the grains and greens are all in one, a big pile of salad and some chicken is all that is needed for lunch or dinner.

Barley Salad with Spring Vegetables

Barley Salad with Spring Vegetables

Rating 

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Serves: 10 servings

A chewy whole grain barely salad with spring vegetables in a white balsamic vinaigrette.
Ingredients
  • Barley Salad
  • 8 oz/250g pearled barley
  • 1 lb/500g asparagus
  • ½ lb/250g sugar snap peas
  • 8 oz/250g mushrooms, sliced
  • Young pea shoots or other field greens
  • 2 small watermelon radishes
  • ¼ cup chives, chopped
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup/235ml vinaigrette
  • White Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • ½ cup/120ml white balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup/120ml extra Virginia olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced or grated
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Start by making the balsamic vinaigrette.
  2. Add a ½ cup white balsamic vinegar to a medium size bowl.
  3. Mince or grate the garlic clove with a Microplane, and add to the vinegar.
  4. Add the honey and mix together until honey has dissolved.
  5. Add the ½ cup olive oil whisking as you add to emulsify.
  6. Check for salt and pepper and season to your taste.
  7. Put aside until the barley is ready.
  8. Cook the pearled barley according to package instructions.
  9. You want to cook the barley to the firm side and not too soft as it will be in a salad.
  10. While the barley is cooking, prep the vegetables.
  11. Bring a pit of water to boil and once it reaches boiling, add the asparagus.
  12. Cook the asparagus for about 5 minutes pulling them out while they are still a vibrant green and crunchy.
  13. Pull them out into a bowl of ice water to cool them down,
  14. In the same boiling water, blanch the sugar snap peas.
  15. Once again, cook them briefly, 3 minutes, and pull them out while still green and crunchy into a bowl of ice water.
  16. Once the asparagus and sugar snap peas are cool, chop them into bite size pieces if desired.
  17. Cut the asparagus into smaller pieces and the sugar snap peas into halves or thirds.
  18. Sauté the mushrooms in a hot pan with 2 teaspoons oil
  19. Just lightly brown them to cook out the rawness and get a smoky flavour.
  20. Keep aside once cooked.
  21. Once the barley is cooked, drain the excess water if needed and rinse under hot water to get out the starchiness.
  22. Toss the barley with ¼ cup of the vinaigrette.
  23. When ready to serve, toss the mushrooms, asparagus, sugar snap peas, pea shoots or field greens and the herbs together.
  24. Add the remaining vinaigrette, start with ½ cup and add as needed.
  25. I used all 1 cup since the barley absorbs the liquid.
  26. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  27. Serve warm, room temperature or cold.

Barley Salad with Spring Vegetables

One of the great things about these whole grain salads is that the vegetables can easily be swapped out with the seasons. I’m envisioning heirloom tomatoes, copious amounts of mint and basil, grilled squash or even corn for a summer take.

I hope everyone is having a fabulous start to the week. I am off this week so I’m having  wonderful time! I am excited to take part in BlueStar training event on Wednesday but what I’m really excited about is getting to visit Uncorked Kitchen

Uncorked Kitchen is a food kitchen in Centennial, Colorado, where events, cooking classes, couples classes, corporate events, take place. Their kitchens are outfitted by BlueStar ranges which are some of the most powerful ones in the market (open burners) I haven’t had an opportunity to play with any of these so I’m thrilled to finally get a chance. I’m also thrilled to be attending Uncorked Kitchen because it opened a few months ago and is having great success. I’ve been wanting to drag my husband to a cooking class but let’s just say, they’re a little pricey. So, on Wednesday, since it is a training class, we’ll be going for free with the other guys and girls from work. Score!

Eggplant and Potato Curry | Baingan Aloo 

Eggplant and Potato Curry | Baigan Aloo-7

The start of the 2015 NFL football season, as exciting as it’s been this week, has kinda thrown a spanner in the works. My posting schedule has gone quite awry even though lately, it seems I don’t really have any kind of a schedule! 

My usual post day is Tuesday and that means, because I’m far from being that blogger who has scheduled 20 posts out, inevitably on Monday night, I’m scrambling to finish either the editing of my photos, writing my post or typing out my recipe. 

However, Monday night there is Monday Night Football and I like to watch it, especially if my team is playing. That doesn’t allow me to finish my post. 

Eggplant and Potato Curry | Baigan Aloo-5

Then Tuesday night, I prep for my cooking/use/care class at work and also prep dinner for the next day for the kids. This doesn’t help with post writing either. 

Wednesday night I’m at work till after 9 and when I get home, the last thing I want to do is sit in front of a computer.

Eggplant and Potato Curry | Baigan Aloo-1

Thursday I’m exhausted from Wednesday and then there’s more football; I like to watch. This doesn’t help with post writing.

So, here I am on Friday. I’ve procrastinated most of the day but I’m finally working on this. I did get some work done and watched my PBS show but then I really had to write this! 

JennAir class

I have some photos of me at work and what I cook if anyone is interested. This particular evening was a Jenn-Air use and care class, hence the Jenn-Air apron. 

That evening I made a Middle Eastern themed dinner which everyone really enjoyed: hummus fatteh for starters, chicken kabsa, spiced beef flatbread (sfeeha), fried eggplant with pomegranate molasses, salad and layli lubnan for dessert. 

Chicken Kabsa

I really enjoy these intimate dinners with future/current clients. They are always so appreciative and really enjoy the food. I throw a dinner party every Wednesday night!

So, this recipe, it’s one of the classics. My mother always made this when I was growing up. I loved eggplant as a young person too which is kind of strange because children aren’t very fond of eggplant/aubergine. 

Eggplant and Potato Curry | Baigan Aloo-3

What made today’s curry so special was the amazing, local eggplant I bought from my farmstand. Almost all eggplant has a tad bit of bitterness or toughness. I was so surprised at these beautiful purple globes. They are so tender and so sweet. Braised with some golden onions and creamy potatoes, they just melt in your mouth with no hint of bitterness. 

Like most of my vegetable curries, I don’t like to over spice. I like just enough spice to enhance the flavour of the vegetable but not over power the delicate taste. One thing I really dislike about Indian restaurants is their tendency to drop half a jar of red chilli powder and make the vegetables so hot that the they sear your taste buds. Of course, their vegetables are questionable to begin with so burning off your taste buds is the only way pass them off as flavourful.

This eggplant curry is pretty popular India. A great number of Indians are vegetarians so there is a huge variety of vegetarian dishes, all very delicious. Everyone has a family recipe and this one is no different. My mother kept it very simple and that’s how I like mine as well. 

Eggplant and Potato Curry | Baigan Aloo-5

Eggplant and Potato Curry | Baingan Aloo 

Rating 

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

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Serves: 8 servings

Velvety eggplants and creamy potatoes in a spicy curry.
Ingredients
  • 2 medium globe eggplants, peeled and medium diced
  • 3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, medium dice
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 2 teaspoon coriander, ground
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon red cayenne powder
  • 1 green chilli, Serrano or Cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons oil, coconut or avocado (neutral oil)
Instructions
  1. In a medium size Dutch oven, heat the oil on medium high heat.
  2. Add the onions and sauté until nicely caramelised.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a minute.
  4. Add the tomato paste and cook out the raw taste, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the potatoes and eggplant cubes.
  6. Toss through and add the dry spices.
  7. Sauté to lightly coat with oil and brown, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add the green chilli.
  9. Add 1 cup of water and bring up to a simmer.
  10. Cover the pot and lower heat to medium low.
  11. Cook until potatoes are done and eggplant is soft, about 20-30 minutes.
  12. I like my eggplant very soft so it takes about 30 minutes.
  13. Keep checking until you get the consistency you like.
  14. The curry should be of a dry consistency with soft potatoes and eggplant.
  15. Remove the cover and evaporate the liquid if necessary.
  16. Add the cilantro right before serving.

Eggplant and Potato Curry | Baigan Aloo-6

So, maybe Saturday will be my new post day….but who knows?

I hope everyone’s looking forward to a fun and productive weekend!

I’m not too thrilled personally because on Monday I’m having a tooth pulled. I have all weekend to stress about it, especially since I REALLY hate gum injections. Happy thoughts are appreciated.

Vegetarian Tikka Masala

Vegetarian Tikka Masala

I have been trying to write this post for the better part of three days. Some time freed up unexpectedly and I wanted to seize the opportunity to write an informed and insightful post. Who am I kidding? Let’s just say I wasted that day lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling wondering where my ability to construct a sentence had gone or how the desire to fan the flames of a flickering spark of an idea had been extinguished, or basically, why the heck couldn’t I think of anything to write?!

It’s not that my mind is vacant, though lately the expression on my face might disclose otherwise, it just feels bogged down and foggy. There’s a flurry of activity at home and work and maybe that’s it, but I’ve handled more trying occasions and at the very least, talking and writing are never a problem I can’t rectify! 

Tofu Potato Patties|Vegetarian Tikka Masala

I don’t know, maybe it’ll fix itself. I hope so, because this brain fog; this inability to concentrate or to think and rant, I don’t like it. 

Lately, I feel like I’m in a time lapse video, there’s me standing still, pretty much unchanging for the most part, but all around me are blurred lines of life whizzing by in technicolour streams of light.The sun rises and sets, moon rises and sets, day blends into night, night blends into day, seconds turn to minutes and minutes turn to hours. Hours merge into days, the days into weeks and weeks into months. It is now June. Wait, what? It’s June?? 

June, the great reminder of the fact that the year is half way done, the great reminder of all that hasn’t been accomplished, and the fact that there’s only 6 months till December to hurry up and do it! June, the month that reminds me I am a year older. This year more than any feels like we’re behind. Am I the only one feeling like this? I know for a fact I’ve done a lot already this year but still, it seems like I’m catching up since January.

Lentil Pullao|Vegetarian Tikka Masala

Playing catch up; it’s not really productive because you never catch up. It’s exhausting to try. So, I’m just coming to terms with the fact that this year is moving along at supersonic speed and I just have to keep up.

I was so busy last week and my mind was preoccupied with menus, and groceries and event dates, I forgot all about my birthday till the day before. I guess my husband and kids didn’t forget and they made it a wonderful day even though the closer I get to the half century mark, the less I want to celebrate. 

us

My day started with coffee at my favourite coffee shop, a latte and an almond croissant. Then a trip up to the Rocky Mountain National Park, with all the kids for a change, and a nice hike to see the rushing waters. Around this time, when the snow melts and the thunderstorms are never ending, the streams, rivers and lakes are brimming over. The water rushes down with such force and energy, and even though it is loud, and forceful and dangerous, it is also beautiful, mesmerising and makes you feel alive. The water is cold and crisp in between your fingers and the spray from the water invigorates your face. The fledgling aspens flutter away merrily, while the new pines and firs are more stoic in their behaviour. It is an incredibly uplifting and invigorating experience to be part of nature.

rushing water at Alluvial Fan area at RMNP

My day ended with an underwhelming dinner at a local Italian, it’s always so disappointing when a special day is ruined by someone else’s ineptitude. Time to take a break from that restaurant too. Sadly, my list of “take a break from” restaurants is getting bigger by the minute. Why is it so hard to find a decent place to eat? Oh well, I had a lovely day and being with my family all day is what mattered the most, and the presents helped too 🙂

Vegetarian Tikka Masala

Anyway, for someone not being able to compose a sentence, I’ve managed quite a few. I told you, talking is not a problem for me 🙂 Moving onto this recipe, this is another one from my vegetarian week. A vegetarian curry based on the sauce from the tikka masala curries but with potato and tofu patties. It is quite delicious and we enjoyed it, even the 4 people in my family who “hate” tofu. They couldn’t even tell there was tofu in the patties. The patties are nicely spiced and the tofu just blends in with the potatoes and soaks up the spices. A light, shallow frying and they become crispy and golden brown on the outside. They are also great by themselves as a snack. 

Lentil Pullao|Vegetarian Tikka Masala

Vegetarian Tikka Masala With Tofu Potato Patties

Rating 

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 8 servings

A vegetarian tikka masala made with tofu potato patties in a creamy gravy.
Ingredients
  • TOFU POTATO PATTIES
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and in medium chunks
  • 8oz/225g tofu, extra firm
  • 3 tablespoons red onion, chopped fine
  • ½ green chilli, jalapeño or Serrano
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons gram flour/ all purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped fine
  • Oil for frying
  • TIKKA MASALA
  • cup onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup/60ml oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 3 large tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, jalapeño or Serrano
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon red chilli powder
  • ¼ cup/60ml heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cilantro, chopped
Instructions
  1. To make the potato tofu patties, boil the potatoes until soft and mash.
  2. Try and make them as lump free as possible.
  3. Break up the tofu into fine pieces.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the mashed potatoes and tofu together.
  5. Add the onion, green chilli, garlic, ginger, the spices and the cilantro.
  6. The gram flour will help the patties stick together when frying.
  7. Using the gram flour will make the patties gluten free.
  8. You can use regular flour too, just enough to bind the mixture.
  9. Take a golf ball size portion of the potato and tofu mixture.
  10. Roll around into a ball and then flatten slightly.
  11. Make all the patties the same way and keep to the side.
  12. You should be able to get 18-20 golf size patties.
  13. Heat a large non stick or cast iron pan on medium high heat.
  14. Add enough oil to cover the base of the pan by ½ inch or so.
  15. We will be shallow frying the patties.
  16. Add as many patties as will fit in the pan without crowding.
  17. Lower the heat to medium.
  18. Fry the patties till golden brown on one side, about 4 minutes, and then flip to brown the other side.
  19. Drain on a paper towel as you fry the patties.
  20. Keep to the side as you make the gravy or masala.
  21. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil on medium high heat.
  22. Add the onions and sauté till soft and golden brown, about 5-7 minutes.
  23. Add the cardamom pods amd cinnamon stick, cook a couple of minutes.
  24. Add the chopped tomatoes and lower the heat to medium.
  25. Cook the tomatoes so their juices are released and they get soft.
  26. Add the green chilli cut in half or quarters.
  27. Add the spices.
  28. Add a ¼ cup of water to loosen up the sauce.
  29. Check for salt and pepper.
  30. Add the cream.
  31. If the sauce is too thick, add another ¼ cup water to thin it.
  32. Drop the patties into the sauce gently.
  33. Heat through and then add the cilantro to finish.
  34. Tastes great with a side of steamed white rice, or some pullao.

 Tofu Potato Patties |Vegetarian Tikka Masala

Hopefully, by next week my fog will be lifted and I can manage a more interesting post. It’s been a while since a rant post  😉

Hope you all have a great weekend!! 

Red Chard and Mushroom Risotto

Red Chard and Mushroom Risotto

Well, whaddaya know? I managed a post sooner than 10 days! I’m trying. I just need some organisation and an urge to actually cook and motivation to take photos rather than just gobble the food down. It really is hard sometimes to cook and spontaneously take photos. I never really cook for just the blog, I cook for the family and we always eat it after all the photos have been taken. However, there’s just no time sometimes and it seems like I will have to schedule blog cooking!

Red chard, mushrooms, and tomatoes

Do any of you cook for your blogs specifically? I know sometimes I really want to try a new recipe so those days are always planned and probably the most organised!

I have changed my photography area around a bit and moved almost everything into the kitchen and dining room. It has made it easier to shoot as I cook. My photography has always been quite minimalistic; I don’t use too many props or over style so this has made it even easier. At the graduation party, we pushed our huge 10 seat table back against the wall to do buffet style food and to make more room in our dining room. We’ve left it like that; I like the extra room and it still seats 6 of us for dinner. The extra room allows for my tripod and plenty of room to move and shoot. This has made my life a little easier and a bit more organised!

Red Chard and Mushroom Risotto

The children are out of school and I don’t think I’ve seen a couple of them since last week! The new graduate sleeps in, gets up, showers and leaves. I don’t see her till the next morning, where she proceeds to repeat the previous day. The 14 year old has become a gypsy, and only turns up once a week to get her allowance. Laith is the only one keeping me company at home. I’m not good company either since I’m busy with work related menus, recipe testing or reading manuals and always have my head buried in my iPad, my computer or in a bag of flour. He’s really good at keeping himself entertained.

Sauteed red chard and mushrooms

So, the other day I was tagged by a very sweet blogger and though I don’t do all these award type things, I did want to thank her for thinking of me and giving me the Liebster Award. I didn’t realise that award was still making the rounds! She asked me so nicely to answer the questions she posted that how could I refuse? So, just for you, Habiba, here are my answers to your questions and I will tag a few of my blogger friends as well.

IMG_3238

Where are you answering these questions from right now? I’m on my Mac in my bedroom in Westminster, Colorado. It has finally stopped raining and turned out to be a beautiful day.
Where did you go on your last holiday? Last holiday was the kids half term/spring break so we headed off to Houston, Texas to see my dad and brothers. My sister joined us from Columbus and many aunts were visiting from overseas so it was a nice reunion.
What’s your favourite book? I have so many! I love British classics and am finally reading some American classics. My favourite probably has to be Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Favourite movie? Once again, too many! Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Midnight in Paris but for a sappy love story, I adore Bridges of Madison County with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep
Did you go to university, and if so, what did you study? Now, this question is a bit of a sore spot with me. I sat my A levels and accepted an offer to Imperial College of Science and Technology (and Medicine now, and also happens to be #3 in the top colleges in the world) At the same time, my parents decided the move to America. Being Indian parents, there was no way in hell they were leaving me behind. I had no choice but to say bye to my dream of studying engineering at one of the most prestigious research colleges in the world. Am I resentful, a little. I try not to think like that but sometimes, the regret is too much. As a result of their decision and the stress of moving countries while studying, I did quite poorly in my exams, so the dream was shot anyway. I did start college classes here and got as far as two years, still in engineering but ended up getting married and kids came along very soon. I also went back to school after 3 kids and 10 years later, aced my classes too, I might add, but it was impossible to continue with everything at home and work. I will get back and finish one of these days! That’s a promise to myself 🙂
Dream job? Hmmm…..back in the day I would say it would be an engineering or science research. Some would say since I write a food blog, and am so much into food, I am doing close to my dream job now. Getting a chance to use the newest technology in high end home appliances, to be able to cook, demo and meet new people is quite a fun job. I do enjoy my job but it’s so funny that it’s something that I would never have thought of doing when I was younger. Anything that remotely was thought of as a “woman’s job” was something I had no interest in! And here I am!
Favourite fruit? Citrus and berries, though there is nothing better than a perfectly ripe, local, peach from Colorado’s Western Slopes.
Which would you pick: cookies and milk, or cookies n’ cream ice-cream? Coffee and cookies maybe but not milk! I’ll take ice cream, but plain vanilla!
Apple or Android? Apple all the way! Done Android and Windows, not a fan
Batman or Superman? Batman, because he’s just a very rich man with a lot of fancy toys. Batman is actually my favourite superhero 🙂
What’s the last thing you searched for on Google? Ozone therapy (for my RA)

So, there you have it. I’d like to thank Habiba from EatWriteBe for my award. I’d like to pass this award onto a few bloggers and you guys don’t have to do it, but I wanted to let you know I appreciate your support, the stories you share with us and for just being awesome people!

Cocoa and Lavender 

Glamorous Glutton

Savoury Table

Hotly Spiced

Kitchen Riffs

Rambling Tart

PlusAteSix

The people behind these blogs are more than just bloggers, they are my friends. Through our blogs and our comments and thanks to Facebook, we stay connected, talk and laugh just like we were in the same city. They are always the first to comment when I write a new post and are always there whether I write 4 times a month or barely once every two months. Thank you!! 

Red Chard and Mushroom Risotto

Onto this recipe, it’s delicious! This was also a dinner from vegetarian week a couple of weeks ago and it is one of my favourite vegetarian dinners. Risotto in all forms is my weakness. I try to make risottos often since you can make them vegetarian, they are gluten free and I love them as does my eldest. Makes one’s life easier.

Red Chard and Mushroom Risotto

This is an all in one dish, the vegetables are incorporated into the risotto and you can have it straight up or with a fresh salad. I like a bit of crunch so I like to serve mine with a cucumber and red onion salsa on top, or whatever crunchy thing I have in the fridge.

I also like to use brown rice in my risotto. I buy the short grain brown rice and though it doesn’t get as creamy as regular white risotto, it’s still pretty gooey and satisfying. I make my brown rice risotto in my pressure cooker and do away with the stirring and pouring. 20 minutes in the pressure cooker is all it takes (time will depend on your cooker instructions). 

Red Chard and Mushroom Risotto-5

Red Chard and Mushroom Risotto

Rating 

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 8 servings

A creamy, filling risotto made with brown rice and filled with sautéed red chard and mushrooms.
Ingredients
  • 8 oz/225g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 bunch chard or 455g, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups/455g brown rice, short grain
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, large, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cups broth, good quality vegetable or chicken
  • 1 cup water
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Lemon juice, a squirt
Instructions
  1. Start by sautéing the red chard and mushrooms.
  2. In a large sauce or fry pan, add the butter and a tablespoon of oil.
  3. Add the chopped garlic and cook a minute.
  4. Add the sliced mushrooms.
  5. Sauté the mushrooms until they release their water and begin to brown.
  6. As they begin to brown, add the chopped red chard stems, cook for a bit and then add the leaves.
  7. Cook until the leaves are wilted, the stems ate softened and most of the liquid has evaporated.
  8. Add the pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper.
  9. Keep the sautéed vegetables aside while you cook the risotto.
  10. In a pressure cooker, add the 2 tablespoons of oil on medium high heat.
  11. Sauté the onions until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes.
  12. Add the 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and cook a little to get the raw taste out.
  13. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook about 2 minutes to soften.
  14. Add the risotto or brown rice and coat with the oil and seasonings.
  15. Add 1½ teaspoons of salt and a few grindings of pepper to the rice.
  16. Add the broth and the water.
  17. Bring up to a boil and put the pressure cooker cover on.
  18. Once the cooker reaches pressure and there's a steady steam, lower the heat to a low setting, and set the timer for 20 minutes.
  19. Check with your manufacturer's instructions and cook accordingly.
  20. I have a Fagor pressure cooker, a pretty simple one and this works for me.
  21. If you are cooking it the traditional way, and using brown rice, it will take longer and you may need more water or broth as the risotto cooks.
  22. Use hot broth and water.
  23. Pour in half of the liquid and let it simmer.
  24. Stir occasionally but you don't have to stir constantly.
  25. Once the liquid has absorbed, add the rest and continue cooking until the risotto is done.
  26. You may need to add more broth/water if the rice is still hard.
  27. Continue cooking until done and the rice is creamy.
  28. Stir in more water or broth if it's too dry.
  29. Add the sautéed red chard and mushrooms and mix well.
  30. Add as much Parmesan cheese as you like!
  31. I add about ½ cup to the cooker and mix till creamy.
  32. A squirt of lemon brightens all the flavours.
  33. Serve in bowls with crunchy red onions or cucumbers on top.

 

Red Chard and Mushroom Risotto-7

Ok, so this post got away from me, it’s a tad long but it seems like it’s feast or famine with me 🙂

Hope you’re all having a good week so far! 

Have a good one.

Roasted Banana Cake

A rich cake made with roasted bananas and studded with pecans.

We may not have awakened to a winter wonderland on Christmas morning but as the day progressed, the heavens opened up and unleashed copious amounts of sparkly glitter, and very soon we were blanketed in the festive, white stuff. It’s funny how that on most days, snow is an inconvenience, a mess to drive in and the constant shovelling of driveways and footpaths isn’t the kind of exercise we enjoy on a wintry morning. However, I love it and during the holiday season, so does everyone else. True, driving can be treacherous, it’s freezing and the car never warms up, but I love winter, and I enjoy everything that comes with this season.

I would have preferred a more leisurely start to Christmas morning but since we do not partake in the traditional festivities of Christmas, our early start is usually, what has become our tradition now, a harried trip to the theatre to catch the first showing of a film. This year it was “A Night at The Museum 3” I really enjoyed this one because it is set in my hometown of London (and could possibly also, have a lot to do with the fact that Dan Stevens is playing Sir Launcelot).

Roasted banana cake

As we left the movie theatre, the blue skies that had accompanied us earlier that morning, had all but disappeared. Muslin like layers of white, wispy clouds, tightly interwoven, were pinned to the once blue sky. The sun lay hidden behind its white veils, nudging the mercury to plummet 20 degrees.

We drove home in a popsicle mould that seemed to be happily chilling in a freezer drawer. Back inside the confines of our toasty home, we lit a crackling fire and attended to some slightly, mundane household tasks that needed to be addressed.

Christmas movies on the telly, a roaring fire, a belly full of comfort food, and a cup or two of soul soothing tea and I found my eye lids getting heavier by the minute. All in all, it was a day filled with precious family time, good food and snuggle time in front of a very, crackly fire.

I hope all of you had a wonderful day as well. What did you all do for Christmas?

Roasted banana cake

Unfortunately, in all the lazy hubbub of the day, dessert was sorely neglected. We managed to scrounge up some ice cream and gelato, greedily scraping up every precious spoonful, and some imported English fruit cake to satisfy our cravings but I sure could have managed a slice or two of this very, delectable Roasted Banana Cake. I made this a few weeks ago with some bananas that looked like they were past their prime but on peeling them I discovered they were perfectly ripe. They made an excellent cake.

I’m not a big banana muffin, bread or cake fan. I think it’s something to do with the strong ethylene gas/musky aroma that bananas emit. I like bananas just fine to peel and eat, or throw in some ice cream or banana splits but I don’t like them baked into things. I find that cooking them a little bit, gets rid of that strong “fresh banana baked into things” taste. I make crepes with lightly sautéed bananas and I love them. So, with that theory in mind, I figured that if I roasted the bananas, then maybe that taste would not be apparent. I was right.

This could be considered an alcohol free Bananas Foster cake, I suppose. When I make my banana crepes, they’re always drizzled with a toffee sauce, as is this cake. The lovely thing with this cake is that all the toffee sauce gets absorbed into the cake as it sits and this lends great moistness and a melt in your mouth quality. It’s quite the celebratory cake. Don’t forget the crystallised ginger on top, it adds a wonderful sharpness to the rich flavour of the cake. Everyone who tasted the cake, loved the ginger.

Roasted banana cake

Roasted Banana Cake

Rating 

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 12 pieces

A rich banana cake made with roasted bananas.
Ingredients
  • CAKE
  • 6 medium size bananas, ripe
  • 8 tablespoons/113g butter
  • ¾ cup/115g spelt flour
  • ¾ cup/115g whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ cup/150g soft brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup/118ml milk
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
  • ¼ cup crystallised ginger pieces to top the cake
  • TOFFEE SAUCE
  • ¼ cup/50g soft brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Golden Syrup or corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • pinch salt
  • ½ cup/118ml heavy/double cream
Instructions
  1. CAKE
  2. Preheat oven to 350F/180C
  3. Grease with non stick spray or butter a 9"/24 cm round cake tin
  4. Peel the bananas and chop them in medium size chunks.
  5. Place the butter in a cast iron skillet or oven proof dish and place in the oven to melt.
  6. Once the butter is melted, add the chopped bananas and place back in the oven.
  7. Roast the bananas for about 20-30 minutes.
  8. You want them soft but also tinged with golden brown.
  9. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  10. While the bananas are roasting, prep the rest of the ingredients.
  11. In a large bowl, add the flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  12. Stir to combine.
  13. In a bowl of a mixer, place the sugar, eggs, and vanilla.
  14. Beat until combined.
  15. This can be done by hand too.
  16. Add the flour mixture and then the milk, mix gently.
  17. Add the butter and the roasted bananas and mix thoroughly.
  18. Add the chopped pecans and mix.
  19. Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin.
  20. Place in the oven and bake until firm and golden brown, about 30-40 minutes.
  21. Cool the cake on a rack for about 15 minutes.
  22. Remove from the tin and allow to cool completely.
  23. Place in a cake plate with a lip to catch the toffee sauce.
  24. Pour the warm toffee sauce all over the cake and let the cake sit.
  25. The cake will absorb all the sauce.
  26. Cut the larger pieces of the crystallised ginger.
  27. Scatter over the top of the cake once the toffee sauce is absorbed.
  28. TOFFEE SAUCE
  29. In a small saucepan, melt the butter.
  30. Add the sugar, Golden Syrup, and pinch of salt.
  31. Let the sugars dissolve and allow the mixture to bubble.
  32. Add the heavy cream carefully (the mixture will bubble a lot)
  33. Mix until thickened and combined.
  34. Pull off the heat.
  35. Allow to cool a little before pouring over cake.

Roasted banana cake

I cannot believe 2014 is coming to an end. I have no idea where the year went. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride this year and looking back on it, I don’t know how I did what I managed to do this year. In the midst of the craziness we persevere somehow. 

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all; my readers, my friends, my family and fellow bloggers who visit my site regularly and leave such thoughtful comments, I thank you for your friendship and your support and look forward to another year of reading, cooking, baking and friendship! 

Have a wonderful New Year and I will see you in 2015!

Nazneen x