Grilled Capsicum and Barley Salad

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!

Ingredients

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

Spray oil

Dressing

1tbs olive oil

1tbs honey

1tbs lemon juice

1tsp oregano

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp paprika

1 small clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

20g feta, to serve

Method

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. When everything is done, combine in a bowl. Stir in the olives.
  5. To make the dressing, combine remaining ingredients (except for the feta) in a jug. Slowly pour over the barley, and mix well to combine.
  6. Top with feta and season with lots of black pepper.

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Apple, Spinach and Chorizo Frittata

Ahhh, frittatas. So easy, so delicious, so good at making a meal out of the most basic ingredients.

This particular frittata, for example, is so stupidly easy, yet the flavour is almost undeservingly wonderful. Such marvelous results for such little effort or need for cooking expertise. I mean, isn’t that the best kind of cooking? All the results for little effort? In my busy, lazy world it is.

This frittata is so versatile, too. You can make it the night before, which is perfect for Thursday nights when the daughter and I both have netball training, the son has baseball, and the husband has a killer commute. It’s a meal in itself, but light enough for those nights when you don’t want a full dinner. And, best of all, while doesn’t last long in my house as everyone loves it, if I can keep it away from snacky, sneaky hands, it lasts two or three days for a great work lunch. A larger serving (1/4) is only 360 calories, and a smaller serving (1/6) is 240. Add some veggies or a salad, and you’re absolutely good to go – and it’s more filling than just the larger serve.

Ingredients

2tsp olive oil

180g chorizo sausage, sliced into coins

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 red apple, thinly sliced

100g baby spinach

9 eggs

60g milk

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Heat oil in an ovenproof frying pan over medium heat. Cook chorizo for five minutes, or until golden. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes, until softened. Transfer both to a bowl, but keep oil in the pan.
  3. Place apple slices in pan and cook for 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden and starting to soften. Remove to a separate plate or bowl.
  4. Add spinach and stir briefly until just wilted. Return onion and 3/4 of the chorizo to the pan, and distribute evenly in the pan.
  5. In a clean bowl, whisk eggs and milk until combined. Pour into pan, over the spinach mixture.
  6. Arrange remaining chorizo and apple slices over the egg. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes, shaking occasionally, until eggs just start to set. Transfer to oven, and bake for 12-15 minutes until egg is golden and cooked though.

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Spicy Cauliflower and Potato (Aloo Gobi)

In the interminable search for vegetarian lunches, I have found yet ANOTHER spicy roasted cauliflower dish. Who’d ever have thought that I’d be tripping over myself to roast cauliflowers constantly? Sometimes, I don’t even recognise myself. But as with most veggies, roasting cauliflower to sweet perfection is the most wonderful way to avoid the soggy blandness that comes from steaming (or gods forbid, boiling!) them. I wish I’d learned this earlier, I was choking cauli down until I was 30. Now I can’t get enough of it!

I’m really hesitant to call this Aloo Gobi: the spirit is there, but I don’t think we’re talking authenticity here. However, what we ARE talking is a delightfully fragrant bowlful of vegetable goodness that keeps you satisfied both physically and emotionally, and makes your little corner of the world smell like heaven. AND IT’S VEGAN, so we can all feel a little smug on this coolish Meatless Monday. Or not. The vegan-ness isn’t really a selling point for me, and I didn’t even bother mentioning it to the husband. At any rate, it’s healthy and delicious. And low calorie – 250 calories per serve, and chock full of nutrition. Winner winner vegan dinner!

Serves 4 (smallish, but not ridiculously so, serves)

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
600g baby chat potatoes, diced
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2tbs olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed under the heel of a knife
2 teaspoons minced chilli
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup water

Parsley, to serve.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Spray two baking trays with oil.
  2. Arrange cauliflower and potatoes on trays, spray with oil and sprinkle with cumin seeds. Season.
  3. Roast vegetables, turning halfway through, for about 30 minutes until until cauliflower is tender and browned in spots (just a little char isn’t a bad thing) and potatoes are just cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, cook onion, garlic, chilli, and ginger in olive oil over low heat in a medium sized pan for 8 minutes or until it begins to turn golden and soft. Stir frequently.
  5. Add ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and cook, stirring constantly for a minute or so. Stir in water, scraping any caramelised bits from the pan. Allow to thicken slightly
  6. Stir in roasted vegetables, turning to coat in the spice mixture.
  7. Serve, sprinkled with parsley.

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Butter Bean and Spinach Smash

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I never thought I’d be the kind of person to own a book called “The Detox Bible”. I don’t believe in detox diets – namely because I feel our bodies are perfectly capable of doing all the detoxification that they need, and don’t need magical juices or powders to help them along. I also don’t believe in “bad” foods that must be avoided at all costs, unless of course, you have an allergy. Nevertheless, when a local bookshop was having a sale on cookbooks and slashing prices by 75%, I’m willing to be more open to things.

I have to say, this book pleasantly surprised me. It’s wheat, refined sugar and dairy free (all of which I happily ignore when it suits me), but really, it’s pretty well balanced. It’s more often a case that these recipes are naturally free of these devil ingredients, than a case of the authors moving heaven and earth to swap these perfectly fine ingredients with ridiculous substitutions. I appreciate such common sense approaches, even if I don’t subscribe to the core philosophy.

Anyway, I digress. This dip is why I bought the book. It’s the first page I opened to when I was flicking through it at the store, and I was immediately sold. I love beans. Like, LOVE beans. My family aren’t quite as enthusiastic, so while I use them regularly, I rarely make them the star of the dish… Until now. Combined with an array of crudités, this dip makes an extremely healthy, delicious, filling and cheap work lunch that will make you feel like some kind of nutritionally superior god/dess for only 240 calories (it’s 170 by itself). Did I mention it’s delicious?! Because, seriously, even I was taken aback with just how GOOD this is. Off a spoon, with crackers, as a bed for your egg – it just works with everything, and my new addiction.

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 handfuls of baby spinach (about 25g)

400g butter beans, drained and rinsed (butter beans are lima beans – I had no idea!)

1tsp olive oil

1tbs lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup chopped raw vegetables to serve

Method

  1. Place all ingredients except the crudités into a blender and pulse into a chunky consistency (you can make it completely smooth if you prefer. I like it chunky – the butter beans are creamy enough to provide a lovely texture). If it won’t break down, add a teaspoon of water to help it along.
  2. That’s it. It couldn’t be easier.

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