Saturday 21 October 2017

Recipes: Enjoy... Rachel Allen's Grain-y Day salads

With lentils, quinoa and pearl barley, Rachel Allen makes salads that are seriously healthy yet totally delicious. Photography by Tony Gavin

Rachel Allen picks some beetroot. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Rachel Allen picks some beetroot. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Puy Lentil Salad with Beetroot, butternut squash, parsley and goat's cheese. Photo: Tony Gavin.

The end of January is almost here and I've been surprised to see how well I've stuck to a few of my New Year's resolutions. One of which is to include lots of healthy pulses and grains and even more vegetables into my diet. I've found it's actually an easy resolution to keep, as I've been making recipes that are so delicious, it's no effort at all to adhere to.

Certainly we all know that vegetables are important to have in our diet, yet grains and pulses can sometimes be overlooked. They pack so much nutrition into tiny packages, and I've been feeling really fantastic as I've eaten my way through bags of quinoa and lentils.

These are three recipes that I'm making quite a lot of at the moment. Each one is distinctively nutritious. They're the kind of salads that work a treat when eaten on their own, or to accompany a delicious roast chicken. Taken to work or college in a lunch box, these dishes will keep your energy levels up all afternoon and help you fight that mid-afternoon snoozy slump.

The pearl barley recipe featured opposite is a lovely way to eat what is, perhaps, a slightly forgotten grain. I sometimes eat this dish as it is, for a light lunch on its own, or to accompany roast lamb or chicken. It also makes a great base to which you can add many things such as roasted vegetables, pesto or chopped greens. A cheese such as feta, goat's cheese or mozzarella would be an excellent addition as well.

The quinoa salad, opposite, is a recipe from my sister-in-law Penny, who is a fantastic cook. It uses quinoa, the increasingly popular pseudo-grain (this is the name for foods that are cooked and eaten like grains and have a similar nutrient profile) from the Andes in South America.

The lentil salad is the sort of recipe that I adore cooking. Some time in the oven coaxes out the sweetness from vegetables, then I add some soft lentils and some deeply savoury goat's cheese. I often make enough to have for lunch and supper the next day!

Penny's Sweet Potato and Rice Salad

Serves 6-8.

You will need:

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

200g (7oz) quinoa, rinsed. See my Tip, above

480ml (17fl oz) vegetable stock

1 teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 medium onions, peeled, and cut in to 8 wedges through the root

1 large sweet potato, roughly 200g (7oz), peeled and cut in cubes of about 2cm (about 1in)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the vinaigrette, you will need:

The juice and finely grated zest of 2 limes

The same volume of extra-virgin olive oil as lime juice (or slightly less)

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 chilli, finely chopped (optional)

5 spring onions, or lots of chives, finely chopped

Lots of fresh basil or fresh coriander, chopped

1 teaspoon sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4.

First, put the pumpkin seeds, the sunflower seeds and the sesame seeds on a tray and into the oven. Cook them for a few minutes until they are just slightly browned, then remove them from the oven and take them off the hot tray (so they'll stop cooking), and set them aside.

Put the rinsed quinoa and the vegetable stock in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes uncovered or until the liquid has evaporated, then set aside and allow the quinoa to cool.

Increase the oven heat to 230°C, 450°F, Gas 8.

In a bowl, mix the ground coriander and the ground cinnamon with the 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Add the onion wedges and the cubed sweet potato to the bowl and toss them in the extra-virgin olive oil mixture. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and spread them out on a baking tray. Put the tray in the preheated oven and roast the onions and sweet potatoes for 20-25 minutes, tossing them halfway through, until they're golden and slightly caramelised.

Next, make the vinaigrette. In a bowl, whisk together the lime juice and lime zest, the extra-virgin olive oil, the toasted sesame oil, the soy sauce, the crushed garlic, the finely chopped chilli, if you are using it, the spring onions or chives, whichever you're using, the chopped fresh basil or chopped fresh coriander, whichever you're using, and the sugar. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To serve, put the toasted seeds, the cooled cooked quinoa, and the roasted onion pieces and roasted sweet potato cubes in a bowl. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss well. Taste and add more salt and freshly ground black pepper if necessary, then serve at room temperature.

Pearl Barley, Pomegranate and Parsley Salad

Serves 6-8.

You will need:

300g (11oz) pearl barley

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or red-wine vinegar

1 pomegranate

1 handful of flat-leaf parsley sprigs

To cook the pearl barley, tip it into a saucepan and cover it with more than twice the volume of water. Bring to the boil, simmer for about 30 minutes until the barley is cooked, and drain. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, then drizzle with the extra-virgin olive oil, and add the balsamic vinegar or the red-wine vinegar, whichever you're using. Toss together well, then allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, cut the pomegranate in half around the equator. Place the cut side of the fruit on your fingers, palm side up, over a bowl, and tap the skin with the bowl of a wooden spoon - the seeds will fall into the bowl. Repeat with the other half of the pomegranate, then toss with the sprigs of flat-leaf parsley.

Add the pomegranate seed and parsley mixture to the pearl barley, then add more salt and freshly ground black pepper if necessary. Turn into a serving dish and eat as soon as posible.

Puy Lentil Salad with Beetroot, butternut squash, parsley and goat's cheese

Serves 6-8.

You will need:

1 large butternut squash (about 1kg (2¼lb)), peeled, deseeded and cut into 3cm (1¼ inch) pieces

2-3 beetroot, scrubbed clean and cut into wedges 2cm wide

3 red onions, peeled and each cut lengthways into about 8 wedges

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons balsamic or sherry vinegar

350g (12oz) dried Puy lentils

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

8-10 cherry tomatoes, quartered (optional)

200g (7oz) goat's cheese, torn into bite-sized chunks (mozzarella will work well also)

Preheat the oven to 230°C, 450°F, Gas 8. Place the butternut squash pieces, the beetroot wedges and the red onion wedges in a roasting tin and drizzle them with about 4 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil. Season with the salt and freshly ground black pepper and roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until they are completely tender and slightly caramelised around the edges.

Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar or the sherry vinegar, whichever you're using, over the warm vegetables and set them aside to cool to room temperature.

Cook the Puy lentils in boiling water with a pinch of salt for 10-15 minutes, or until al dente.

When the lentils are cooked, drain them, then drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, and the remaining tablespoon of balsamic vinegar or sherry vinegar, whichever you're using, over the warm lentils. Add the chopped parsley, and gently toss the lentils with the roasted butternut squash, beetroot and red onion and the quartered cherry tomatoes, if you're using them.

Taste and, if necessary, add more salt, freshly ground black pepper, extra-virgin olive oil, or balsamic vinegar or sherry vinegar, whichever you're using.

Place on a serving plate and scatter the goat's cheese chunks over the top of the salad.

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