I know this meal doesn’t look like much, but it’s one that I’m most proud of because it’s a weeknight dinner that I made sans-recipe, using only what was in the fridge and cupboard at home.
I was inspired by Sarah Wilson, who’s an ambassador for the International Love Food Hate Waste program, and her recent blog posts about respecting the food we have and clever tips on not wasting food – it reminded me of my great grandmothers ‘waste not, want not’ bread board. What was true decades ago in her kitchen, rings true in mine now.
My appetite for food is always driven by trying something new and my motivation for cooking often comes from a love of the process – not just the end result, which leaves me forever off-loading baked goods and casseroles to friends. I look for inspiration in cookbooks, magazines, my travels, cooking shows, food blogs, restaurants, growers markets, everywhere really (yes, that’s me in the kitchen at work trying to peer into your Tupperware containers to see what you’re eating for lunch) – so I figure why not look inside my own fridge and cupboards for inspiration instead?
Tonight I gave myself the challenge to go home and get creative. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely enthused by the idea – food is one of the things I most look forward to in life, so the thought of getting home late to cook a meal that might turn out to be half-baked, wasn’t doing it for me.
But this is what I found;
– Pearl barley – canned and dried grains and pulses are always in my dry stores
– Liquid stock – I always have a few cartons (or at worst, a stock cube) on hand
– Veggies – I scrounged together a carrot; half a brown onion and rather dry lemon; some frozen spinach (I freeze fresh batches of it to throw into soups and pastas); a handful of cherry tomatoes and half-a-dozen shrivelled mushrooms that I had forgotten where even there!
– A glass of white wine (… I know, there was left over wine?? It’s January, we’re just easing in to the year!)
– Olive oil and Verjuice
– Fresh herbs – from the almost heat-wilted garden
– Parmesan – I’m a cheese lover. There’s always some sort of cheese in my fridge
And this is what I made – a Vegetable barley risotto. Chuffed! Not only was it absolutely delicious but so satisfying knowing my resourcefulness had given love and life to food that may have gone to waste.
Below is the recipe I ended up creating, but do what you will with what you have. And I’ll be taking up this challenge more often!
Waste not, want not, barley & vegetable risotto
Serves: 2; Prep time: 10 minutes; Cook time: 20-30 minutes
1 cup pearl barley
Glass of white wine
3 cups vegetable stock
¼ cup Verjuice
½ brown onion, diced
½ lemon – juice and 1 tsp zest
1 carrot, peeled and diced
Handful chopped spinach
Handful cherry tomatoes
Half a dozen button mushrooms
25ml extra virgin olive oil
70g unsalted butter
Handful chopped fresh herbs
Freshly ground black pepper
– Pre-heat the oven to 180’C
– Heat half of the butter and a little olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes until just tender but not coloured. Add the barley, stir, and when hot deglaze with ¼ cup Verjuice
– Scatter rock salt on a baking paper lined tray. Place cherry tomatoes on the salt and bake for 15 minutes, or until they start to pop and caramelise
– Heat the white wine and stock until just boiling, add a cup full of stock at a time to the pan and stir continuously, until all of the stock is absorbed. Continue to add the stock until the barley is still quite nutty (the barley will be a little more forgiving than Arborio rice if you allow it to cook a little longer than necessary)
– After about 20 minutes to half an hour, whilst the barley is still crunchy, add the carrots and spinach, and continue to cook for a few minutes
– Add lemon zest and roasted cherry tomatoes
– Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary, serve immediately with a tablespoon of freshly shaved parmesan