It’s a cruel trick that the universe likes to play; one week, I’m bored and feel I have nothing to do in my life, the next, I’m run off my feet working, studying, mumming, wifeing and existing. I never seem to hit a happy medium. Of course, on those busy weeks, meal planning becomes all the more important (once you work out where to squeeze it in, that is), otherwise it’s the perfect storm for falling back into some reaaaaalllllly bad habits that are best left back in 2017.
As such, Sunday afternoons are for meal prep. I long ago worked out that the best antidote for a case of The Mondays is a killer work lunch, and this salad, adapted just a little from my current cuisine-crush Ottolenghi, is just that. If you’re after something to look forward to, take your pick from the nuttiness of the barley, the sweetness of the onions and capsicum, the tartness of the lemony dressing, the saltiness of the feta, the sharpness of the olives… the list goes on. Every mouthful is just a little bit different, and while it’s 6.30 on a Sunday night, and I won’t be eating it for another 18 hours (and 2 meals!) from now, I’m already looking forward to it.
At 355 calories a serve, this is slightly higher than my usual lunches (but much less than Ottolenghi’s, as he uses 5(!) tablespoons of oil) , however it’s so wholesome and real, that it won’t leave you reaching for the cookie jar at 3pm. It’s very much worth the extra 50-80 calories to me. It’s just disappointing that I didn’t double the recipe – it only yields 2 serves, and I fear my husband will steal my Tuesday lunch!
100g raw pearl barley
2 cups vegetable stock
200g capsicum (I like to use yellow and orange baby capsicum), sliced into strips about 2cm thick.
3tbs black olive slices, drained (or 10 black olives, sliced)
1 onion, thinly sliced
1tbs olive oil
1tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp paprika
1 small clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
20g feta, to serve
- Add stock and barley to a medium sized saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the barley is tender but still has some bite.
- Meanwhile, heat the grill/broiler on high. Line the rack of the grill/broiler with aluminium foil, spray lightly with oil, and spread capsicum in a single layer over the top. Grill for about 15 minutes, until softened and charred to your liking (a little smokiness is wonderful, here).
- While the capsicum are grilling, spray a small frypan with oil, and cook onions over a low heat until soft – it should take about the same time as the peppers.
- When everything is done, combine in a bowl. Stir in the olives.
- To make the dressing, combine remaining ingredients (except for the feta) in a jug. Slowly pour over the barley, and mix well to combine.
- Top with feta and season with lots of black pepper.