Go with the grain
Pulses and grains can make a tasty, inexpensive supper if you use a little imagination, writes DOMINI KEMP
Plenty of cheap joints will always hold a place dear in my heart. People of a certain age will remember Spudato “restaurant” on Baggot Street, home of baked spuds that you could pile high with garlic butter, grated cheddar, tomato and onion salad, or tuna and sweetcorn, all for about £2.
Nowadays we live in world of genuinely cheap food that is costly in other ways, mainly to our health. So how do we eat well and cheaply? Well for starters, beans and pulses are a great way to get inexpensive nutrition.
Black beans are a marvellously tasty type of bean and I made this dish using tinned beans, which although it saved time, cost more money. Buying dried black beans and soaking them overnight will save you a few quid. But you have to factor in the various stages: overnight soaking, then rinsing and cooking in boiling water for an hour will bring them to the same stage that tinned black beans are at, once they are drained and cooled down.
With tinned beans, I think it’s best to drain and rinse them well, but in this recipe, you pour in the beans, including the liquid in the tins. Once you have cooked beans, this recipe really is instant food and deeply satisfying.
The tomato barley risotto is one of the last ones I promise to take from Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest book, Jerusalem. I’ve gone back and forth through it and I absolutely loved this dish, mainly because the children wolfed it down without a peep.
It’s full of celery (I doubled the amount), garlic, lots of tomatoes and a hint of smoked paprika, and topped with anything from crumbled feta to a little bit of Parmesan. Not only is pearl barley great for you, it is also cheap, and you don’t have to stand over it while it’s cooking. You just have to stir frequently, but not constantly.
BLACK BEANS WITH AVOCADO AND CORIANDER
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 x 400g tins of black beans
Salt and pepper
A few corn tortillas
1-2 avocados, diced
Some coriander to garnish
Lime wedges to garnish
In a medium-sized saucepan, sweat the onion in the olive oil and add the chillies, garlic, cumin and cinnamon. Season well with salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes. Add the tinned beans – liquid and all – and bring to a gentle simmer.
Meanwhile, heat a non-stick frying pan and then dry fry the corn tortillas until they crisp up and cook out, charring in parts. You can tear them or cut them into triangles or strips.
Taste the beans and adjust the seasoning. Serve in bowls topped with avocado, coriander and a lime wedge. You can also crumble some feta or grated cheddar on top.
TOMATO BARLEY RISOTTO
I ended up using one tin of tomatoes, 500ml passata and 500ml stock to make up the liquid amount instead of below, simply because that was the size of the passata (crushed tomatoes) carton that I had. The main thing is to have one litre of tomato and stock liquid and one tin of tomatoes.
200g pearl barley
90ml olive oil
1 head celery, finely sliced
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
Few sprigs thyme
Pinch smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
4 strips lemon rind
Good pinch chilli flakes (optional)
1 x 400g tin tomatoes
700ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
To garnish (optional)
Fresh oregano or other herbs
100g crumbled feta
Extra olive oil or grated Parmesan
Rinse the barley well and drain it while you melt the butter and olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the celery, onion, garlic and thyme andsweat down until they are soft. Add the barley and mix well. Then add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.
Bring up to the boil and gently simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring frequently rather than constantly. The barley should have soaked up the liquid and it should be the consistency of a risotto. If not, keep cooking until the liquid has pretty much all gone, but it’s wet enough to not turn into complete stodge.
The garnish is optional, but nice. Lightly toast some caraways seeds in a frying pan and then mix with the crumbled feta and some olive oil, which you spoon over the barley. Top with the herbs if using.
Food cooked and styled by Domini and Peaches Kemp