Thursday, 5 March 2009

"You're as pretty as a flower - a cauliflower!"

(Title courtesy of a Rainbow Christmas pantomime circa 1988. Children's TV was like one long stand-up comedy routine in those days, I tell you.)

I seem to have fallen behind a bit on my blogging duties, so today's is a double bill:

17. Barley Risotto with Cauliflower (Slow Food)

Having virtuously put it on my 'to do' list (fuelled by the fear that if I cherry pick all the tempting-sounding meals now I'll be left with a whole batch of dubuious-sounding ones to plough through at the end) I spent most of last week cunningly avoiding actually making this recipe, but on Monday it finally caught up with me. A cauliflower and barley risotto might sound innocuous enough to you, but for someone who doesn't like cauliflower and is unconvinced by the merits of pearl barley it's a bit of a stretch to approach it with much enthusiasm. I nonetheless made full quantities, not because I'm a masochist or because my greed extends even to things I don't much like, but simply because I didn't want to be stuck with half a cauliflower, carrot and onion.

The recipe's a bit time consuming but not too much bother - all you do is fry diced onion, carrot and cauliflower stalks in some olive oil, add the pearl barley, pour in some white wine and reduce and then add the cauliflower florets along with stock and simmer for about 35 minutes. Right at the end you stir through some butter (and parmesan, if you're that way inclined), season, then top with parsley and toasted walnuts to serve.

Did I mention that I don't really like cauliflower? I have a feeling that liking it might be sort of a pre-requisite for enjoying this recipe. The pearl barley had a nutty bite which was pleasant enough, and anything which only costs 35 pence for half a kilo at least wins my grudging admiration, but I'm not convinced by its credentials as a base for risotti - Jill enthuses that it's perfect for the job as it doesn't need soaking, but, erm, neither does rice. And the barley gave none of the yielding creaminess you get from risotto rice. In fairness I should probably mention that Mike, who isn't a big fan of normal risotti, thought this was a decent alternative. I soldiered on for a while but eventually admitted defeat and passed my bowl over to him, and once he'd polished off both our servings he proceeded to finish the leftovers from the pan, too. Eating quantities intended for three-and-a-half people may not have agreed with him:

However, he bounced back in time for Tuesday's dinner:

18. Roast Chicken, Walnut and Tarragon Salad (Salad Food)

While I'm not sure I'd agree with Jill's claim that this is "fast", it's certainly easy - you just chop up some pumpkin or butternut squash and throw it in a roasting tray with a couple of chicken quarters, drizzle with oive oil and roast the whole thing for about forty minutes. Note that I said "a couple" of chicken quarters, because - wonders will never cease - I actually halved this recipe! That must be the first time since, oohh...mid-February? Anyway, once that's ready you tear the chicken off the bone and toss it and the squash with some curly endive, toasted walnuts, tarragon leaves and dressing. Except I foolishly forgot to buy any tarragon so used thyme instead (that being the only herb I had that wasn't dead). The dressing - which, in a Blue Peter moment, you should have made earlier - comprises olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, white wine and seasoning. I actually dreamt about Dijon mustard the night after making this; read into that what you will.

As you can see the ratio of curly endive to everything else is quite high, but maybe that's so that you fill up on the healthiest bits. All in all it was unspectacular but definitely tasty, and a good way to get yourself eating salad-y things in the Winter months. I somewhat surprised myself by feeling full afterwards, too.

Mike says: "What do you get when you combine roast chicken with a salad? Answer: Roast Chicken Salad. This was nice in the same way a roast chicken is nice. There was nothing surprising about it although the chicken was lovely and moist. I did feel a little unsatisfied afterwards, maybe someone should invent a roast potato salad to go alongside it."

Next time: I discover the macro button on my camera, to no discernable effect.


Jill said...

How can you not like cauliflower???
(Fair enough that you dislike beetroot - I think you have to be Australian or Polish for that)but cauliflower - it's because you don't like cheese, isn't it, as anyone who has had cauliflower cheese would like cauliflower.
Anyway, I'm thrilled that you are cooking your way through Lighten Up,and it's brilliant that you are leaping into the kitchen and cooking so much for the first time. As one who can't knit to save my life and look in awe at the designs on your previous blogs, I salute you!

Boffcat said...

I'm sorry; I'm a culinary heathen! Believe it or not even the cauliflower-loathing-me is an improvement, though - when I was fourteen the only thing allowed to pass my lips was Kellogg's Frosted Wheats. Since then I've been slowly re-incorporating things into my diet; wait long enough and cheese and cauliflower might even make it...

I owe you a big debt of gratitude as I'm really enjoying my Lighten Up project, and I look forward to being converted to the Way of the Beetroot. Maybe.