Last week I hosted a meeting of the editorial board I sit on. The editor usually hosts and cooks up a storm, so I was a bit nervous. He'd put in a request for falafel when I said it was all going to be veggie so I themed the menu around middle-eastern-esque foods. The falafel went down very well, with toasted pittas, a spiced chickpea dip from Moosewood Low Fat Favourites, and a tahini dip (I bribed someone to take the leftovers away with them as I loathe tahini unless it's completely hidden in hummus), some roasted tomatoes and peppers with herbs and garlic, a carrot and orange salad, some salad leaves, some last-minute-panic feta with coriander leaves and oil drizzled over it, a roasted cherry tomato and cheddar tart (for those who aren't used to weird vegan grains) and this pilaf. It was based on a recipe in the BBC Food Vegetarian Summer magazine which used a grain called Ebly which I had never heard of, but which I subsequently have seen in a small box at a great price in the supermarket. I was keen to try out and use up a packet of another grain called kamut which I bought in a fit of zeal about a year ago so I subbed that instead. It looks like spelt and is similarly long-cooking, but is of ancient Egyptian origin. It's only quite recently been rediscovered, and it was described as having a 'buttery' taste in my wholegrains book. It was either going to be great or really really weird.
In the event it was very nice. I don't honestly think that I could have distinguished it from spelt if I hadn't known, and one of the other board members guessed that it was barley. It has more bite than that though - The Scientist liked it and he doesn't like barley. I said there would be a prize for anyone who could guess the grain, and no one had even heard of it which was fortunate as the prize was only dessert, which they were getting anyway :) The other good thing about the pilaf was that it was quick and easy to cook, and was nicely spiced because it simmers in well seasoned stock. I thought of serving it with some feta on the top but in the end decided to style the feta as its own dish to boost the spread on the table! Much to my relief there was enough food and it didn't seem to cause too much consternation among the omnivores. Next time we're going out for a pub lunch so carnivorousness will be restored to the masses!
Spiced kamut pilaf (based on one for Ebly grain in Good Food Vegetarian Summer magazine)
Serves 4 (I doubled it)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, cut into thin wedges
1 large courgette, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed [the original recipe was for 3 cloves but one of my visitors doesn't like too much garlic]
2 tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp turmeric
200g green beans, trimmed and cut into 2.5 cm pieces [the recipe said runner beans; I used whatever sort had travelled the fewest air miles]
140g cherry tomatoes
350ml vegetable stock
small handful of coriander
1. Cook the kamut in boiling water. It takes about an hour and a half. I did this a couple of days before, cooled and then froze it, but that's only because I had quite a lot of dishes to juggle on the day.
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, then fry the onion and courgette over a low heat for 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the garlic, cumin seeds and turmeric; fry for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the beans, tomatoes and stock to the pan, bring to the boil, cover, then simmer for 5-6 minutes until the tomatoes just start to lose their shape.
4. Stir the drained kamut into the vegetables, then cook over a high heat for 2 minutes. Season to taste, stir in torn coriander and serve.