Go with the grain
Are Food Worries keeping you awake at night? Are you waking at 3am realising it has been weeks of sausages and mash, chicken and roasties, burgers and chips? Too much meat, not enough greens, no fruit to speak of, no grains, no legumes. Worry worms wriggling everywhere. Let’s get back on track. SunRice, Australia’s rice industry colossus is keen to get us on message. The company recently completed 18 months of research focused on eating habits and can confirm that, yes plenty of us do worry about the goodness – or not – of what we eat and how our food can affect our health. The other niggle is FOMA or fear of missing out. Television has been awash with culinary adventures and cooking shows for nearly a decade now and new ingredients, new diets and new ways with old dishes continue to bombard us. Cooking is positioned somewhere between a leisurely exercise and an exhausting adventure and it’s all rather worrisome.
SunRice has a stack of new products designed to dispel such concerns: A range of gourmet rices that reads as if they came from the hidden kingdom – red rice, black rice, Koshihikari sushi rice, and acknowledging the interest in grains known and grown in ancient civilizations,a range featuring combinations of old and new, such as rice with quinoa, rice with chia.
There is more to grains than rice though, and after a long long time as an understudy in lowly broths and stews, barley has emerged as the new grain for risottos and pilafs. Wheat is a grain we are familiar with but there are contenders. Farro, freekah, spelt, quinoa – officially a seed not a grain – are all making a bid for attention. These ancient grains might require a change in cooking techniques but for most it will be a simple soaking, draining, simmering and adding flavoursome herbs and or spices. If there are culinary worries, let’s remind ourselves that at some stage everything was new. Who do you think discovered the seeds of weeds would make a porridge? A home cook seeking something new of course.
BARLEY RISOTTO WITH MUSHROOMS
The nutty flavour and slippery texture of barley is lovely with the earthiness of mushrooms. Barley is a substantial grain and the dish will serve 4-6 250g pearled barley 1 litre quality chicken stock – if you’re using commercial stock, make sure it’s not sweetened 120g smoky bacon (or pancetta), diced 3 large shallots , finely diced 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped 350g mushrooms, sliced – use a mix such as swiss browns and large flats and any wild mushrooms if available 3 sprigs thyme Salt flakes Freshly ground pepper 150ml dry white wine 60g parmesan or grana padano, finely grated Butter 4 sprigs sage, leaves only Bring a litre of water to the boil, add the barley and simmer for 20 minutes, then drain well. Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan and keep on a low heat. Put the diced bacon in a heavybased or cast iron saucepan, and fry over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until the fat renders off and the bacon starts to crispen. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 3 minutes or until softened. Add the mushrooms and the thyme (and a little butter if it’s too dry), season and cook to soften. Add drained barley and white wine, stir and reduce. Add the hot stock gradually while stirring, just like making risotto, until the barley is cooked – if you like a nutty, chewy barley, make sure there is some texture left in the grain. If you run out of stock you can use a little hot water. And if you run out of patience,or prefer your barley tender, cover the pan and leave on low heat for another 5-15 minutes (checking often)until the degree of ‘cooked’ is to your liking. Once the barley is cooked, stir in the grated cheese and some butter if it needs enriching. In a small pan, fry the sage leaves in a little butter until they crisp up. Drain, season and place on the risotto just before serving.
FREEKEH WITH CAULIFLOWER, PLUMS AND POMEGRANATE MOLASSES
A warm salad for autumn, with spiced cauliflower and the sharp tart notes of diced lemon and plums underscored by the tang of pomegranate molasses. 1 brown onion, finely chopped 1⁄ cup uncooked freekeh
2 7 Tbsp olive oil, divided measure 250ml-300ml vegetable stock 1 small cauliflower, broken into small florets 2 Tbsp plain flour 2 tsp garam masala (or 1⁄ tsp each of
2 ground cumin, coriander, cloves and cinnamon) 400g can lentils, rinsed and drained 1⁄ lemon, peel and pith removed, flesh
2 diced 1 large plum, the flesh diced small 3⁄ cup walnuts, toasted
4 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 2 1⁄ Tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 Soak freekeh for five minutes, then drain. Heat one tablespoon oil in a medium pot, saute onion until softened, add freekeh then add stock and cook for 15-20 minutes, adding more liquid if necessary. The grains should be tender but firm not sloppy. Meanwhile, cut cauliflower into small florets and place in a large bowl. Mix flour and ground spices, add to cauli and toss to coat. Heat remaining oil in large frypan. Add spice-dusted cauliflower and fry over medium-low heat for 10 minutes until all the florets are soft and golden. Add extra oil if required. Add drained lentils to the wam cauliflower then the still warm freekeh, diced raw lemon and plum, and nuts. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and pomegranate molasses and serve.
MOROCCAN LAMB WITH BARLEY & RICE SUPPLIED BY SUNRICE
SunRice Rice & Barley is a high fibre mix of brown rice and barley. It has a rich nutty flavour and firm texture. The gentle boil instruction method on the pack works well. Put 1 cup barley and rice in large saucepan, add 8 cups cold water, bring to boil and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. Remove from heat when cooked to tenderness and drain. Serves 4 hungry people. 1 Tbsp cooking oil 600g diced lamb 1 Tbsp flour 1 large red onion, finely slicked 1 large red capsicum (pepper), seeded, halved and cut into strips 2 tsp ground cumin 3 tsp ground coriander 1⁄ tsp chilli flakes
2 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated 3 tsp lemon zest 4-6 fresh tomatoes chopped, or 1 can of chopped tomatoes Handful of green and black olives 1 preserved lemon, peel only 100ml water Fresh coriander to serve Heat most of the oil in a large heavy-based oven to hob dish (tagine or casserole). Put lamb and flour in a bowl and toss to coat the lamb – shake off any excess. Add the floured lamb to the hot oil and brown lightly. Remove from pan and put aside. Scrape up any meaty flour residue, add a little more oil, then the onion and capsicum slices, cook until soft. Stir in the spices and the grated ginger and cook for a minute or two. Add the zest and the tomatoes, the olives and preserved lemon (the skin only; discard the flesh) and the water. Cook gently for a few minutes then taste and add salt and pepper to preference. Cover and simmer gently for one hour stirring occasionally. OR put the covered dish in a 175C oven and leave to cook for an hour checking occasionally that the liquid hasn’t evaporated. Meanwhile, cook barley and rice according to packet directions. To serve put the rice and barley on the plate/ platter, arrange meat and vegetables over, scatter with chopped coriander and serve.
Ancient & modern: Barley, rice and a Moroccan lamb tagine.