Archive for July, 2009

Pearl barley salad





If I was more organised I would always make big salads at the start of the week to use as packed lunches for work. It would save me money and stop me eating ready-made sandwiches with that horrible bread that sticks to the roof of your mouth.  Making fabulous work salads would fit in very well with the Nigella-style existence I aspire to. Sadly though, in the same way that I consistently fail to eat breakfast, make pickles out of old fruit and build a spice rack, I can’t seem to manage making a simple packed lunch.  




Exceptionally I made a salad last night which is big enough to get me through the rest of the week. It was an idea based on a salad my aunt Sylvie told me about. We often email each other what we are eating for lunch; food is a fundamental concern for my entire family. This particular salad sounded tasty and I liked the idea of using pearl barley in a zeitgeisty, recession-cooking way.




Sylvie told me to cook pearl barley, blanch broccoli florets then make a dressing from grated ginger, mirin, sesame seed oil, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Add the dressing to the cooked pearl barley and broccoli, mix with some spinach leaves and sprinkle some roasted cashew nuts on top.* I used watercress instead of spinach and I added some lime juice and brown sugar to the dressing because it was missing something.




This was quite a strange salad since I still felt that the dressing, and consequently the salad, was lacking something. However it was really moreish and I can’t wait to make it again. I think pearl barley must have an addictive quality. Thankfully it is much, much cheaper than heroin.


*Philippa, I am sorry to have once again let you down by failing to include measurements. I would just make this according to taste and how much you need. Or I’ll make it for you when you move to Clapham ;-)




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Do a Google-image search on beer can chicken recipe and you will not be disappointed with the results, trust me. It would appear that people across the world, mainly men I would imagine, are cooking chickens on the barbeque with a can of beer up the bird’s rear end. As if being roasted wasn’t bad enough these chickens are subjected to a final act of indignity; violation by a can of Red Stripe. Yes, it’s pretty funny.




After seeing this recipe on the Food Stories blog I thought I would give it a go myself but being without a barbeque I looked up a recipe for doing it in the oven. I was very excited and the fact that my mother, Philippa and Ruth all expressed misgivings about the method only increased my conviction that it was going to be brill’.




I made a rub for the chicken by mixing various spices with brown sugar. I used 2 tsps paprika, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp celery salt, 1 tsp mustard powder, 2 tsp ras el hanout spice mix, salt, pepper and 4 tbsp dark brown sugar. I think. I was drinking pimms at the time but if you just bung a load of spices and sugar together you are bound to end up with a nice mix that you can rub onto meat and it will keep for up to 6 months in a jar.




I rubbed the chicken with butter and the above mix. I emptied a can of coke down the sink (no coke fans in our house), got Ruth to poke some extra holes in the top of the can and filled it halfway with a nice cider. I was cooking a small chicken for three of us and I thought that inserting a large can of fosters up the bird’s rear end might be a bit much. Some of the rub mix went into the can of cider and the chicken was then perched on top of the can. There was a brief moment of hilarity when I rather embarrassingly got the neck of the chicken confused with the rear and said ‘I just don’t think it’s going to fit up there’. It was like being in a Carry On film.




All the recipes I read said that the chicken wouldn’t need basting and that there would be lots of lovely juices for a gravy gathering in the tin however I had to add cider throughout cooking as it was dry. We ended up with a lovely gravy but the chicken itself was average. What did I do wrong? If I had to do it again I would lay the chicken down on a rack but I probably won’t try this again in a hurry. Making the holes in the top of the can is hard and I can’t imagine all the rude jokes would be as much fun second time around.




I served the chicken with couscous. To make this I fried a sliced onion in some oil then added a teaspoon of brown sugar and a teaspoon of ras el hanout spice mix. I then browned a handful of pine kernels in the same pan. For three of us I used 200g of couscous which went in a heat proof bowl with the onions, pine kernels, a handful of raisins, another teaspoon of the ras el hanout mix, the zest of a lemon and 250 ml of boiling stock. I covered the bowl quickly with cling film and left it for 10 minutes. To serve I fluffed it all up and stirred in a glug of olive oil.




As a starter we had some prawns. I added a little butter and oil to a hot pan and fried two chillis, two garlic cloves and a thumb-sized piece of ginger all of which had been cut julienne, or at least my attempt at julienne. Whilst these cooked I added more butter and the juice of a lemon. The idea is that the lemon and butter make a lovely sauce. At the last minute I added 12 raw prawns, cooked them through and seasoned the dish. With a bit of bread to mop up the butter this is an incredibly easy starter that I have been making for years. It came from a Jamie Oliver recipe, he adds parsley and I would have too if I’d remembered to buy it.




Our feast climaxed with a strawberry tart made by Ruth, the half-hearted cook. Biscuit base; good, creamy filling; good, strawberries and toffee sauce; good. It was delicious . 



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