Grains


stack-of-breakfast-pancakes

This recipe isn’t traditionally Swiss – but the original, rather plain and straightforward version (simply comprising Swiss muesli, eggs and milk) was given to me by a Swiss chef in Switzerland. Hence ‘Swiss inspired’. I have adapted it quite a bit, adding fresh and dried fruit. I have suggested apricots and figs to keep with the ‘Swiss muesli breakfast’ theme, but use any dried fruit of your choice.

The batter for these pancakes should be fairly thick, but add a splash or two of more milk if you think it needs it. The pancakes are similar in concept to drop scones. They are ideal for a leisurely weekend breakfast, especially when you have guests staying over. Serve with fresh fruit or fruit compote, honey, or thick creamy yoghurt. Makes around 24 small pancakes/ serves 6.

2 oz/ 50g medium oatflakes
1 large egg, beaten
5 fl oz/ 150 ml milk
Small pinch of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 ready-to-eat dried apricots, chopped
2 ready-to-eat dried figs, chopped
2 tablespoons sultanas or raisins
1 tablespoon chopped mixed nuts
1 small apple, cored and coarsely grated
1 small baby carrot, trimmed, peeled and coarsely grated
Small pinch of cinnamon powder

Mixture of unsalted butter and light, unflavoured oil for frying

Icing sugar for dusting

1.    Combine well all the ingredients for the pancakes in a bowl. Leave the mixture to rest for 30 to 60 minutes, so that the oatflakes have a chance to plump up.
2.    Heat a mixture of butter and oil in a non-stick frying pan, a little at a time. Turn the heat to very low. Drop in the pancake batter by tablespoonful, two or three at a time. Flatten the pancakes into circular shapes with the back of a spoon. Cook gently for approximately 3 minutes until the edges begin to set. Flip over and cook the other side until lightly browned. Repeat the process until the mixture is used up, working as quickly as you can (use another frying pan if necessary).
3.    While you are making the pancakes, place the cooked ones on a warmed plate, and wrap them in a clean tea towel so that they don’t go cold.
4.    Dust the pancakes with icing sugar. Serve as warm as possible.

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beanbarleybeetroot-salad

To the three Bs I would like to add a fourth B – Big flavour. This is a healthy East European-style salad, based on everyday homely dishes commonly found in Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary. Barley is available in health food shops, supermarkets, and East European food shops and delis that have recently been springing up in every street in London. If you can’t find it, use the more widely available wheat berries. Serves 4.

For the beetroot dressing:
2 large fresh (not pickled) beetroots
1 oz/ 25g walnuts
A long strip of lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, peeled
9 fl oz/ 250 ml thick, creamy yoghurt (East European, if you can find it)
Salt and pepper

For the salad:
6 oz/ 150g barley, soaked overnight
6 oz/ 150g dried butter or haricot beans, soaked overnight OR 1 x 400g can
2 oz/ 50g currants
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 oz/ 50g walnuts, roughly chopped
2 oz cucumber, finely diced
4 oz/ 100g green salad leaves or baby spinach leaves (stems removed)
Salt and pepper
½ teaspoon smoked paprika

1.    Start by making the dressing. Boil or steam the beetroot for 20 minutes or so until soft. Cool, peel, and cut in quarters.
2.    In a food processor or mixer, blitz the walnuts, lemon zest and garlic until finely crushed.
3.    Add the beetroot, yoghurt and seasoning to the mixer bowl, and blitz again until everything is well amalgamated. Chill the dressing if you have time.
4.    Meanwhile cook the barley according to packet instructions until al dente.
5.    Cook the dried beans in unsalted water for an hour or so until tender; or drain and rinse the canned beans.
6.    In a large salad bowl, combine the drained and cooled barley and beans with currants, herbs, walnuts, cucumber, salad or spinach leaves, and seasoning. Toss gently.
7.    Sprinkle with the smoked paprika, and serve each portion with a dollop of beetroot dressing.

stuffed-acorn-squash

I wasn’t going to do another squash recipe: there are, relatively speaking, too many on this site already – as compared to, say, kohlrabi or turnip recipes. But squash is a sexy, popular, versatile vegetable that lends itself well to different types of fillings. So it makes a great centrepiece for a special occasion dinner table.

Ras el hanout is a wonderfully fragrant, traditional Moroccan spice mix, made up from a very wide range of whole spices freshly crushed together. It might include cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, rose petals and so on – the recipe varies throughout Morocco; each spice stall and family has its own version. Getting good-quality ras el hanout is key to this recipe. In the UK, you can obtain it from large supermarkets, food halls, speciality spice shops, food markets, and Mediterranean delis. Experiment with different spice blends for this recipe. Ras el hanout has a punchy, distinctive flavour, so if you are using a particular blend or brand for the first time, use sparingly – and hand out harissa (Moroccan hot sauce) on the side for extra flavour, if at all needed. Serves 4.

For the squash:

2 medium acorn (or another variety) squash
Olive oil for greasing
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper

For the filling:

6 oz/ 150g white, brown and wild rice mix
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil (Moroccan, if you have it)
1 small leek, trimmed and finely sliced
1 small carrot, peeled and diced
1 very small green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 to 6 small button mushrooms, halved
1 oz/ 25g pine nuts, lightly toasted in a small pan
1 oz/ 25g ready-to-eat apricots, finely chopped
1 heaped tablespoon ras el hanout
¼ teaspoon saffron, crushed in a mortar and soaked in a tablespoon of water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 large green olives, stoned and chopped
4 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper

1.    Pre-heat the oven to 200C/ 400F/ gas mark 6.
2.    Cut the squash in half vertically through their stems. Do not peel the squash or remove the stems. Scoop out the seeds and discard (or dry them in a very low oven for later use as a snack).
3.    Mix a little oil with garlic, paprika and seasoning, then paint the insides of the squash with this mixture using a pastry brush.
4.    Place the squash on a greased baking sheet, cut side down, and bake for 30 minutes until tender.
5.    Meanwhile cook the rice according to the packet instructions. Once cooked, let it cool thoroughly.
6.    Heat the oil in a pan, and cook the leek, carrot, pepper and mushrooms for 5-10 minutes until soft.
7.    Add the cooked, cooled rice and stir. (You may be wondering: what’s the point of cooling the rice first if it’s going to be added to a hot pan anyway. Well, the reason is that if you add the hot rice, the grains will break down and the filling will become mushy. If the rice is allowed to cool down first, the grains will remain intact and separate).
8.    Add the pine nuts, apricots, ras el hanout, saffron, lemon juice, olives, coriander and seasoning. Mix gently.
9.    Stuff the squash cavities with the rice mixture, pressing down the filling lightly but firmly.
10.  Serve immediately, or cover with foil and keep warm in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Scented with cinnamon, this dish has an Arabic flavour, and is delicious served with alongside courgette and feta fritters. Serves 4 – 6.

4 tablespoon olive oil
2-inch piece cinnamon
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
9 oz/ 225g pumpkin or butternut squash flesh, diced
3 oz/ 75g coarse bulgur wheat
Salt and pepper
6 fl oz/ 175 ml water
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 scant teaspoon icing sugar (optional)

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan, and fry the cinnamon stick for 10 – 15 seconds.
2. Add the onion and fry for 2 minutes until lightly brown. Add the garlic and stir.
3. Add the pumpkin and seasoning and cook with the lid on for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the water and bulgur wheat and bring to the boil. Add parsley.
5. Cover and cook on low heat for 20 – 25 minutes. Take the lid off, and cover the pot with a tea towel. Put the lid back on and set aside for 20 minutes.
6. Fluff gently with a fork, and sprinkle with icing sugar (if using) before serving.