Today is supposed to be the saddest day of the year - broken New Year resolutions, Christmas credit card statements, dark mornings, nothing nice to look forward to. Despite that, and The Scientist's absence, I've managed to have rather a nice day. I don't make New Year resolutions, I haven't had a credit card statement recently, I made The Scientist's 'simulated sunrise' alarm clock work this morning, and I was working at home so I didn't have to leave in the dark, and had a cat on my lap for most of the day. Plus, I knew I could look forward to a forage into the neglected depths at the back of the cupboard and bring out another foodstuff The Scientist refuses to befriend: barley.
I suppose that barley brings more in the way of texture than taste to a dish, but it raises the heartiness of any dish to a new level. It therefore surprises me that The Scientist doesn't like it, as that's one of his main criteria in his meals, but there's no explaining people's tastes (apart from WEIRD). For tonight I had decided to make a dish I've made before: Persian split pea and barley stew - another Moosewood low fat favourite. I don't know what makes it Persian, but it shares quite a lot of characteristics with cholent - a slow cooking stew which features in Jewish cuisine because it can be put in the oven on a low heat on Friday when the sabbath comes in, and left until Saturday to be served. Eco Bubs makes a rather good example. This one's made on the stovetop rather than in the oven, but it uses a similar range of veggies plus barley and pulses.
It doesn't take too long to make, and I did it in stages at lunchtime again, so it was all ready to be heated up when I got back from the gym. I failed miserably at making only one portion, partly because I would have needed such a piddly amount of barley it didn't seem worth getting its hopes up. Still, it was nice, so that's hardly a problem! I served it with some low-fat Greek yogurt, which was a nice creamy contrast with the nuttiness of the stew. The recipe suggests doing a garlicky yogurt but that seemed like too much faff on getting home. I'm sure it would be lovely though.
I was also happy today because we got a letter informing us that the local council is bumping up its recycling scheme. We used to live so close to a mini recycling depot that we didn't have any kerbside collection, but I was a bit disappointed when we moved that the council don't take kitchen waste, plastic or cardboard. As of March, however, they will! Hooray! Final word: congratulations to The Scientist on his statsy achievement today. He might be a geek, but he's my geek, and I love him. Now I'm off to read up on growing Jerusalem artichokes, which Dogophile Vegan Nurse tells me don't take up too much space....
Here's the recipe:
Persian split pea and barley stew (from Moosewood Low Fat Favourites)
Serves 4 - 6
Cooking time: 1 1/2 hours
1/2 cup raw barley
1 bay leaf
1 large garlic clove
4 cups water
1 cup dried yellow split peas
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup coarsely chopped onions (1 onion)
1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (2 medium - I cut them a bit smaller so they were bite-sized)
2 cups potatoes, cut ditto (1 medium - I cut them smaller again)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups stocks
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh tomatoes (3 medium)
2 tbsps currants
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley (I used dried thyme!)
2 tbsps fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
salt and pepper to taste
Garlic yogurt (optional)
1/2 nonfat yogurt
1 minced small garlic cloves
In a medium saucepan, bring the barley, bay leaf, garlic and 2 cups of the water to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 mins. Add the split peas, cardamom, cinnamon, and the remaining two cups of water and simmer, covered, for another 45 mins, or until the barley and split peas are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir occasionally and, if necessary, add a small amount of additional water to prevent the mixture from sticking.
While the barley and split peas are cooking, place the onion, carrots, potatoes, salt, cayenne and stock in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 10 mins. Stir in the tomatoes and currants and continue to simmer, covered, for about 10 mins, until the vegetables are tender. Add the cooked barley and split pea mixture. Stir in the parsley, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Discard the bay leaf.
If desired, combine the yogurt ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle on a few toasted pine nuts and serve with several lemon wedges or a dollop of garlic yogurt.
Per 9oz serving without garnishes: 252 cals, 10.9g protein, 1.0g fat, 53.0g carbohydrates, 12.9g total dietary fibre (nutritional info provided by Moosewood)