Consider this as less of a recipe than it is a collection of techniques which you can use to make your perfect springtime grain salad. Replace barley with spelt, blanch broad beans and asparagus, garnish with toasted almonds or walnuts, finish with watercress and mint - the possibilities are endless!
Preparation time 30 minutes Cooking time 30 minutes Serves 2-3 people
INGREDIENTS 200g Barley 200g fresh peas 50g peanuts 1 lemon 2 stalks spring onion 2 stalks spring garlic A handful of rocket leaves or any other peppery herb Extra virgin olive oil as needed Salt and pepper to taste. Ice is useful but not necessary EQUIPMENT Chopping board and knife Baking tray lined with baking paper Medium sized pot Medium sized pan Colander or strainer Tongs Rubber spatula or wooden spoon Zester Mixing bowl METHOD 1. Begin by bringing a pot of water up to the boil. While the water is coming to a boil shuck your peas (remove the outer pod using your fingers) and have them ready for blanching. Get a bowl ready with some ice water and have a colander or strainer ready to drain the peas. Heavily salt the boiling water as if you were cooking pasta, when you taste it it should be almost as salty as the sea! Blanching is the process of quickly boiling vegetables and cooling them quickly in ice water to stop the cooking process. This works wonderfully to cook beautiful green spring vegetables and preserve their flavour, nutritional value and colour! Vegetable sizes as well as cooking times may vary so the best way of checking if something is cooked when blanching is always to taste it! 2. Drop the peas into the boiling water carefully and taste them after 1 minute to check for doneness. You want them to lose any sort of crunch or starchiness and be tender. Cook for up to 2-3 minutes if the larger peas are not cooked yet (you can separate your peas into large peas and small peas and cook separately if you want them to both be perfectly cooked). Quickly strain the peas and place the peas into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.
3. Preheat an oven to 160C. Roughly chop the peanuts into small pieces and season with a few drops of olive oil and season well with salt. Place onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and roast in the oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Reserve for the finished dish. 4. You may reuse the water you cooked the peas in if you reserved it, just top up with another liter of fresh water to dilute the saltiness a little bit. Alternatively place a pot of water on the stove and lightly salt it. Place your barley (or any alternative grain if you prefer, the recipe is quite versatile) and bring to a boil. Reduce to a moderate simmer and begin tasting for doneness after 20 minutes. Barley will typically take 30 minutes or so to cook but mileage may vary. Once cooked, strain and allow to cool at room temperature in a large mixing bowl. 5. Cut the green garlic and spring onion in half to create 8 cylinders, they will fit in your pan easier this way but if you have a large enough pan to accommodate you can leave them whole. Season lightly with olive oil and salt. 6. Place a pan over high heat and once hot, add the onion and garlic to the pan. Do not move them for a minute and press them against the pan, if necessary, to char them on one side. Turn them over to char evenly on the opposite side. Once lightly blackened on 2 sides, remove from the pan and wrap tightly in foil to allow them to soften. Once cool, finely mince one stalk of green garlic and slice the spring onion and remaining garlic into small pieces. 7. For the vinaigrette, remove the zest from your lemon and place into a small bowl along with the juice of half of the lemon. Add a teaspoon of mustard or honey if desired. To the amount of lemon juice, add roughly 3 times as much olive oil. Add the minced green garlic as well as a pinch of salt and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper. To combine, place into a jar and shake vigorously. Vinaigrettes are great to have in the fridge; this one will keep in the fridge for a few days and even longer if you omit the green garlic. These make excellent sauces for fish, meat or vegetables and really bring the flavours of a salad together! We recommend combining them in a jar for easy mixing and storage. 8. To bring the whole dish together, combine the vinaigrette and add it to the grains a tablespoon at a time, tasting in between each addition until the grains are seasoned to your liking. Add all of the peas, a handful of rocket, the spring onions and most of the peanuts and stir to combine. To finish sprinkle more spring onions and any additional herbs you prefer.