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I was thrilled to be Freshly Pressed on my last post – that’s included in the WordPress editors’ daily picks. And welcome to new readers who liked the Vietnamese Chicken Curry post and have decided to stick around! I hope you enjoy the blog. Unfortunately Mr Lemur is away shooting a film so I am without both camera and photographer for a few weeks. Boo! For now, we will all have to put up with my iPhone photography. I know, it’s a hardship, but we soldier bravely on…

I came across black rice noodles in our local ethnic food store the other day and was intrigued. I love black rice but I don’t cook it very often as it is fairly time consuming and many of the uses I know for it are desserts. (I adore Malaysian pulut hitam, or black rice pudding with coconut milk, for instance, but I rarely make it myself.) I was immediately drawn to these deep black noodles. I knew they wouldn’t produce the exact satisfying chewyness of a black rice grain on the teeth but I figured they might combine the glutinous qualities of glass noodles with a deeper, wholegrain flavour.

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One of the many bits and bobs I brought home from Thailand was a jar of nam prik pow. Or at least, I think that’s what it is. At one of Chiang Mai’s night markets, I came across a stall selling candied fruits and savoury things in jars. Obviously, I couldn’t actually read any of the labels but I was drawn to a particular set of little plastic pots. The stallholder opened some of them for me and it was clear they were variants of chili and shrimp pastes. I bought two – one an almost black, deeply fishy scented tar with a musty kick, the other a rich jewelled red colour with a lighter garlic, chili and fish sauce smell. They’re obviously mass produced, but they taste a good deal better than any of the jarred nam prik pow you can buy over here. I’ve been dying to try them out. (If anyone reads Thai, I’d love to know what it actually says…)

Unfortunately, my original plan for a variant on yam som-oh went awry at the shops, where basically nothing I wanted to purchase was available. No coconut milk, no grapefruit, etc. I think I went into a bit of a panic because I came home with a completely random Ready Steady Cook style bag of ingredients. Rump steak, portabella mushrooms, spring greens and red peppers? Er, ok. My local greengrocer (i.e. the Mean Polish Store) doesn’t exactly carry a wide range of Asian vegetables but still, I have no idea where those mushrooms came from. That being said, I ended up with a rather nice dish – lots of wok-fried greens and thinly-sliced beef with the roasty hot garlicky flavour of nam prik pow seared onto them.

To make this dish vegetarian, obviously it’s easy enough to omit the beef and just use greens and mushrooms. Likewise, soy sauce can sub for fish sauce in the usual way (use a bit less and dilute more with water as I find soy a bit saltier). More challenging is the nam prik pow but you can buy veggie nam prik pow in many Asian markets. It’s worth seeking out, or indeed making your own, as the stuff’s a wonder to have in the fridge.

Spicy Thai beef and greens

  • 1 small rump steak
  • 1 head of spring greens
  • 2 portabella mushrooms
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 long Thai red chilies
  • 1 tbsp nam prik pow (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup measure, half filled with fish sauce and half warm water
  • 2 tbsp palm sugar
  • 1 lime

To prepare, slice the meat very thinly, cut the mushrooms and pepper into rather less thin slices, and also slice the greens. Finely chop the garlic and chilies. Get the wok good and hot before adding a glug of oil, then add mushrooms. When they’ve coloured, add garlic and chilies.

Next add the greens and the pepper. Of course, the key thing in wok frying is not adding too much volume. Greens seem pretty volumetastic at first but then cook down pretty fast. Still, don’t make this for more than two people or your wok won’t stay hot enough. You want the greens to get that toasty wok hei flavour.

Finally, add the beef and the nam prik pow and fry for a minute. You want the paste to cook and also sear into the beef and greens. Then add fish sauce, water, and sugar and stir to dissolve the chili paste and sugar into the liquid. Mix everything well. Once that’s done, turn off the heat and add the lime juice. Serve immediately.

I’ve been playing around with some chillies I bought from Brighton’s new spicy food store, Chilli Pepper Pete’s. They came in a huge bundle, about 25cm long, just asking to be hung up rustic-style in our kitchen. The store owner told me she has them specially imported from China, so I’m not entirely sure what they’re called. They are mild in the same way as the dried reds you usually find floating in large numbers in Sichuan cooking. Cooked until softened, they lend flavour for the timid, but are entirely edible and not as threatening as they might look. But unlike regular Chinese chillies, these impart a delicate smoky flavour. It’s not as aggressive as chipotle, but imbues food with a mild smokiness that’s really pleasing. I’ve used them here with spring greens but it would work really well with tofu or, I think, with pork.

Last night I tested the combination out on JD, M and their friend from London who came by for dinner. Given the unseasonably beautiful weather we’ve been having, I should probably have been making light summery salads but I’ve always thought a long day at the beach can work up an apptite for hearty food. Since M is a vegetarian, I made several vegetable dishes and one meat one for the omnivores. For the meat-eaters I slow-braised some pork in dark soy and ginger and for a couple of other vegetable dishes, I turned to Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford’s Beyond the Great Wall, which I’ve been reading avidly. I made a simple but delicious dish of tofu skin in chilli sesame dressing and another of edamame with pickled chilies and sliced garlic.  (Er, yes, detecting a theme there. I had a moment of fear that P might not like chillies but luckily she did!) It was a relaxed mix of dishes, all simple, based on one main ingredient, and perfect for an unexpected late summer evening.

Chinese chilli braised greens

  • 2 onions, diced
  • large chunk of ginger, julienned finely
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6 long red chillies, halved
  • 8 very long Chinese dried chillies cut into 2 inch lengths, or about 20-25 normal sized ones
  • 2 tbsp shaoxing wine
  • 2 tbsp thin soy sauce
  • 2-3 heads of spring greens, collard greens or cabbage, sliced

Sauté the onion until it is soft and browning in places, then add the garlic, chillies (fresh and dried) and ginger. Fry until soft and fragrant.

Add greens, wine and soy sauce, cover and cook on a low heat for 30 minutes.

The smokiness of the long chillies is a key feature of this dish. If you can’t get those, add in a dried chipotle to get some of the same quality. This dish works as I served it here as a side in a Chinese meal, but it also works as a simple dinner served with rice. I’ve also served it with simply grilled beef on top, or, for a more substantial vegetarian main meal, it’s good with creamy cubed tofu mixed in.

Serves 4-6

My old roommate N is a fan of garlic. I haven’t lived with her for over ten years, since we were in graduate school together, but I remember vividly the image of her crushing garlic and salt with a huge butcher’s knife, and folding little mountains of garlic paste into caesar salad dressing, soup, or skordalia. She is also a real northern Californian foodie, serious about the kind of high-quality fresh ingredients that are second nature in West Coast farmers’ markets. When we lived together, her mother (a professional food writer) actually FedExed tomatoes to the East Coast, which I thought was kind of crazy until I tasted them.

So when a conference brought N to visit me, I immediately considered what I would cook for her. We don’t have California levels of beautiful produce here but we do have some lovely local food in the summer. I figured that what would make her happiest would be the simplest presentation of Sussex foods…with a healthy dose of young garlic to keep things interesting. I got a lovely rolled lamb shoulder from the butcher and slathered it generously with a mixture of olive oil, salt, and a head of young garlic pounded to a paste. There are lots of nooks and crannies in a rolled shoulder that you can stuff garlic paste into. I roasted it for an hour and then sliced it and topped with mint salsa.

The salsa was pretty simple too: I just chopped a bunch of spring onions, two long green chilies, four tomatoes, a small handful of cilantro and a big handful of mint. Mix together, salt generously, and squeeze over the juice of a lime. It’s a simple summer foil to the roast lamb.

To round out the meal, I added local chard wilted with a little agrodolce, and Jersey royal potatoes tossed in butter and mint.

N and I had a great time catching up, sharing photos and hanging out on the beach. This super casual meal – so casual none of it really calls for a recipe – isn’t the most complicated thing I’ve ever cooked but it was definitely reflective of laid-back British summer eating. Now, if we could just arrange for the sun to come back…?

I’ve just bought a new hob, after our last one broke in a depressingly final manner. Having no stovetop is clearly not an option in the Lemur household so we had to get a new one installed PDQ. As it turned out, the only one that fit the space was a fancy-schmancy type with a special wok-burner in the middle. I swear it was Mr Lemur who made this purchase, not me rationalising my need for an Asian food oriented kitchen. Really! Once we got the thing up and running (i.e. after we dealt with the mildly terrifying gas leak and made sure we were not actually about to blow ourselves up) it seemed only right to bust out the wok and stir fry some stuff.

I’m always a bit sceptical of stir frying at home. I know I can’t begin to get my wok hot enough for proper wok hei, the roasty quality imparted to food in a properly made stir fry. Plus, I’m not realistically going to cook one portion at a time, so I probably always have a bit too much in the wok for optimal speed of cooking. That said, the new work burner is kind of impressive. It has two concentric rings of gas and is big enough that you can actually get the whole wok pretty well heated. So to inaugurate the new wok burner, I decided on a simple Sichuan dish of bok choy and minced pork with chilies and Sichuan peppercorns. The unique Sichuan flavour of ma la, or numbing and spicy, is for me the perfect way to bring out the toastiness of wok-cooked food.

Sichuan wok-fried pork and greens

  • 250 g minced pork
  • 4 heads of bok choy
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 5 cm of ginger
  • 10-12 dried red chilies
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tbs dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbs oil

Cut the bok choy into quarters lengthwise, so that they hold together and sit in a bowl of water for several minutes to wash. Parboil them for 2 minutes and drain well.

Chop the garlic and ginger fine. Heat the wok and, when very hot, add the oil. First add the chilies and peppercorns – fry for just a few seconds until you can smell them, then add the pork. When the meat is just browned, add the garlic and ginger. Fry for another minute and then add the greens. Move the meat out of the way so that the greens come into good contact with the wok – ideally you want to char them a little on the outside.

Stir constantly for a minute more and then add soy sauce. Stir through and serve immediately.

Serves 2-3

This trip to Paris was less meaty and heavy than previous ones, what with the not eating French food plan, but restaurant food is always a bit excessive, so I’ve been enjoying a week of Asian spicy salads to recover. There’s probably nothing I like more than an Asian salad – the mixture of cooked and raw vegetables, sometimes meats, and sparkily flavoured dressing is my idea of perfect warm weather food. This salad of green vegetables is an idea I learned from Vatcharin Bhumichitr’s great little book Vatch’s Southeast Asian Salads, and I’ve been making it in variously adapted forms for years now. Essentially, the dish involves lightly blanching an assortment of greens so that you end up with a generous bowl of vibrantly coloured vegetables, which are then dressed in a warm coconut and mint dressing. You can more or less make it at any time of year with green beans, broccoli, cabbage, whatever’s available, but it’s especially appealing in the late spring and early summer when you have asparagus and broad beans, or soon fresh peas at your disposal.

Green vegetable spicy salad with coconut dressing

  • 100g green beens
  • half a cucumber
  • 100g sugar snap peas
  • 200g asparagus
  • 300g broad beans (weight in pods)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 large green chili, chopped
  • 3 tbsp coconut cream
  • 2 tsp palm sugar
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce*
  • juice of 1 lime
  • a handful of mint leaves, chopped

*For vegetarians, add salt to taste instead of fish sauce, and a tbsp of water.

Pod the broad beans, chop the asparagus, top and tail the beans. Bring a pot of water to the boil and blanch the vegetables each for 3-5 minutes, until just cooked. After each one is done, drain well, pat dry, and add to a bowl. Keep the broad beans separate so they can be peeled when cool. Meanwhile, julienne the cucumber.

To make the dressing, heat the oil in a small pot and gently sauté the chopped garlic till golden. Remove from the heat and add the chili, sugar, coconut cream and fish sauce. When you are ready to serve, add the lime juice and mint and mix with the salad. Serve over rice.

Serves 2-3.

Our local food co-op has some amazing spring greens right now and so this dinner began with me clogging up their rather poky vegetable section pondering what to make with the giant bunches of beautifully colourful rainbow chard. Having just had Asian greens for the previous couple of days, I wanted something different, plus the selection of fresh herbs and spices at the co-op isn’t really conducive to Asian cooking. Then it struck me that I had enough peripherals in the freezer and store cupboard to make a quick and appealing set of taco fillings. There are still several pots of Oaxacan mole negro in the freezer from Christmas – I make mole for Christmas most years and there is always a bucket of the stuff – and I have several tins of salsa verde that American friends keep me supplied with when they visit. Tinned tomatillos are one of those compromises that cooking Mexican in the UK seems to demand: I’ve blogged before about the difficulty in finding fresh tomatillos, nopales, and poblanos here and until I learn to grow them myself, I am doomed to the canned stuff. But some brands of salsa verde are actually quite good, containing just tomatillos with a bit of serrano and cilantro. Others have the alarming green colour of cheap limeade and taste like the dip in bad Mexican restaurants. I like Herdez brand, but look for a lack of additives in the ingredients list and you should be ok.

Anyway, with these store cupboard ingredients in mind, I planned two types of taco: Oaxacan mole with sweet potato, red pepper, and goat cheese and rainbow chard in tomatillo sauce. The chard wants to be topped with grated hard cheese, and since the co-op has a good selection of Sussex goat cheeses, I decided on two kinds: one soft with peppercorns and one aged.

The mole tacos couldn’t be simpler, though of course they do depend on having mole to hand. You could replace the mole with a much quicker chipotle or ancho sauce, both of which would work with these ingredients. In any case, all I did was chop and steam the sweet potato then serve with fresh peppers, a bowl of sauce and cubes of goat cheese to be assembled at the table. The chard tacos are barely more complex: for a dinner that looks quite involved, this was all very easy.

Rainbow chard tacos

  • 1 large bunch of chard
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 garlic cloves
  • 1 tin of tomatillos / salsa verde
  • a handful of cilantro
  • 3 serrano chilies
  • a lump of hard goat or sheep’s cheese
  • corn tortillas

Wash and chop the chard, saving the stalks for another purpose. Chop the onion and fry in a little oil till beginning to brown. Add the crushed garlic and chopped serranos and fry for another minute or two. Dump the contents of the pan into a food processor, add the tomatillos and process till relatively smooth. Reheat the same pan and when hot, pour in the sauce. It should bubble rapidly and then settle down a bit. Cook for 5 minutes or so, till the sauce darkens and thickens.

Add the chard and stir as it wilts. Cook for another 5 minutes, adding a little water if necessary. (Not too much as the greens will give out quite a bit of their own liquid.) Salt to taste.

Serve with tortillas warmed in a steamer or on a skillet, and top each taco with a handful of grated cheese.

I’ve read on a few blogs that Persian food tastes better than it looks, and I kind of get what they’re saying. Photographing the pheasant fesenjan was something of a challenge, because no matter how beautifully jewel-toned and succulent the dish looked in real life, photographing in close up did make it look a little bit like the Chinese restaurant scene from eXistenZ. But the idea that Persian cuisine generally looks unappetising doesn’t really hold true for me, perhaps because so much of what I cook is braised, stewed or otherwise formless. I don’t really do meat and two veg. To put it another way, Mr Lemur has unkindly suggested that this blog could easily be called Things in Bowls. So the lack of visually discrete ingredients in these Persian dishes isn’t exactly unusual to me. But what I think people really mean when they say Persian food tastes better than it looks is that the tastes are unexpectedly bright, concentrated, and punchy in comparison to the homey looking exterior. Fesenjan and khoresht ghormeh sabzi do look good to me, but their cosy style gives no clue to the amazing vibrancy of the flavours lurking beneath the surface.

For this reason, I was really excited to make khoresht ghormeh sabzi, a herb and green vegetable stew that, unlike fesenjan, I’d never made before. I love cooking greens of all kinds, and this dish promised a giddy pile up of herbal flavours. I read a bunch of different recipes and decided that, since I was making the dish to complement the fesenjan, a vegetarian version would be more appropriate. Plus, I wanted to keep the freshness and lightness of the herbs front and centre rather than using them as foundation for a meat dish. It really is a wonderful excess of greenery. Preparing the dish makes you feel like the healthiest person alive, as you chop enormous piles of spinach, dill, parsley, cilantro and more. Using herbs not in small quantities as flavouring but in giant amounts as ingredients is always liberating, and this dish really lets you go to town with the leaves. You’ll want to visit a grocery store that lets you buy herbs in generous bunches, not meagre sprigs in sealed plastic containers. Most of the ingredients are easy enough to find – spinach, dill, cilantro etc – but you might have a bit more trouble with fresh methi or fenugreek leaves. Luckily, we have a good Indian grocer nearby which always carries methi, but if you’re stuck, you could probably use dried. While it would counter the freshness that is a central part of the dish, methi actually holds up quite well in dried form.

Khoresht ghormeh sabzi, or Persian herb stew

  • large bunch of spinach
  • large bunch of parsley
  • large bunch of dill
  • large bunch of cilantro
  • large bunch of methi / fenugreek leaves
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 leek
  • 1 bunch of scallions or green onions
  • 1 bunch of chives
  • 1 can black-eyed peas
  • 6-8 slices of dried lemon
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • oil for cooking

First, chop the onions, leeks and scallions into small pieces. Wash and finely chop all the herbs and greens. Now, most traditional recipes for this dish seem to involve complicated frying of herbs in separate pans, but since I’m doing a meatless version, it didn’t seem worthwhile. My Iranian friends may disapprove. Instead, simply heat 2-3 tbsps of oil and sauté the onion, leek and scallion until soft. Now add the spinach and herbs and cook down for 15 minutes, stirring often.

Once the greens have diminished in size and darkened in colour a good bit, add generous amounts of salt and pepper, plus turmeric and dried lemon slices, and stir for a minute. Now add about a cup of water, cover the pot and bring to the boil. Simmer for another 15 minutes and then add the beans. Simmer for a further 15 minutes or so, longer if you’d like.

Serves 4

A friend commented the other day that I hadn’t cooked any Thai food yet – well, I say commented, but it was more of a complaint. But he made a good point. I cook a lot of Thai food and it’s overdue some representation on the blog. Unlike him, I haven’t just come back from a fantastic looking trip to Southeast Asia (sob), so I can’t draw on memories of the genuine article. But I have eaten some amazing Thai food over the years: the most flavourful green curry I can imagine in an Andalucian village of all places, sublime pork relish with crackling in David Thompson’s Michelin-starred Nahm in London, and, perhaps best of all, coconut and shrimp rice in Jitlada, an unassuming strip-mall restaurant I would cheerfully fly back to Los Angeles just to eat at again. We take popular Thai dishes for granted these days, but it’s easy to forget just how genuinely exciting a cuisine it can be.

My Thai cooking is nowhere near the level of complexity of those restaurants, but I did learn a thing or two from food shopping in New York. As I’ve mentioned, Chinese supermarket workers in Chinatown don’t tend to speak much English, but the Thai store people do and some kind shopkeepers were willing to help teach me what to cook with the things I brought to the counter. I got some great tips from the lovely Nong in Bangkok Center Grocery (whose homemade nam prik pow is delicious, by the way, if you’re in the area). She guided me in cooking with frozen coconut, Thai pea eggplant and pomelo, and in my first forays into homemade curry pastes. Thai curry pastes are an absolute breeze to make, with just the labour of peeling and chopping standing between you and fresh, brightly flavoured dishes a million times better than using a jar. This red curry paste can be used in lots of recipes, including the noodle dish below.

Thai red curry paste

  • 15 dried red chilies (about 2 inches long)
  • 5 fresh red chilies (the next size up from birds’ eye)
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 5 lemongrass stalks
  • 1 knob of galangal
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 11 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp cilantro leaves and stems
  • the zest of a lime
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • a glug of fish sauce

Soak the chilies in warm water for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, dry roast the coriander seeds and then the cumin (separately) in a frying pan, then pound them in a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a small food processor. Chop the fresh chilies. Peel and chop the galangal. Peel off the rough outer layers of the lemongrass and chop the tender insides. Chop the cilantro. (This should really be cilantro roots, if you can get them, but I never can so I use stems and leaves.) By now the dried chilies should have softened up a bit and you can chop them too. Pound the garlic cloves, lemongrass, galangal, both sets of chilies and cilantro. Add lime zest and shrimp paste and transfer to the processor. Pulse with a tablespoon of fish sauce if necessary to produce a paste that’s mostly smooth but with flecks of colour and texture remaining. Taste carefully for balance – eaten raw it is going to be quite hot. And remember you’ll be adding sugar and lime to whatever dish you put it in, so don’t worry if it seems a little salty.

Note: If you want a vegetarian version, just omit the shrimp paste and replace the fish sauce with light soy sauce. Similarly, you can make the noodles veggie by replacing the fish sauce with soy (half light, half dark) and using Thai eggplant, tofu, or zucchini instead of chicken.

Red curry chicken noodles

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • 1 whole chicken leg
  • 1 1/2 tbsp red curry paste
  • bunch of kai lan, torn into large pieces
  • a thick handful of flat rice or wheat noodles
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
  • 2 cups beansprouts
  • 1 lime
  • fish sauce to taste
  • handful of cilantro, chopped

(I’ve separated out the curry paste from the noodle recipe since you might want to make the paste on its own, but if you plan to make the noodles, then begin with the chicken or vegetables and make the paste while you wait for them to cook.)

Place the chicken in an oven-safe dish, splash with fish sauce and sprinkle with black pepper. Cook at 190 C / 375 F / gas mark 5 for about 45 minutes or until the juices run clear. Cut the chicken into bite size chunks, including the crispy skin, and retain the fat and juices in the pan. Boil the noodles for 4 minutes (or just soak them if they are thin enough rice noodles). Drain and keep them in a colander.

Heat the oil to medium and fry the red curry paste until sizzling. Pour in some of the chicken fat and juices. (Be careful, the pan will spit a bit.) Add the palm sugar and mix well. Keep stirring and scraping the paste to prevent sticking for 2-3 minutes. Add spring onions, stir, and then add kai lan. Keep stirring.

Add a tbsp or so of water to loosen. Add chicken, noodles, and a glug of fish sauce and toss well for another couple of minutes. Turn off the heat. Add beansprouts and half the lime juice and mix. Taste and add more lime juice and/or fish sauce until the flavours balance. Top with cilantro leaves and serve immediately.

Serves 2-3

Over at Coconut and Quinoa, Amy Chaplin has a fab recipe for farro salad with roasted squash and chard. I love the combination of grains and greens, but my inner Scot really can’t get past barley as a base for nutty, grainy, chewiness. Of course, in Scottish cuisine, barley is most often found in soups (or at least that’s where I encountered it as a child). I like it fine in soups, but I prefer to make it the star of the show so I tend to cook it like an Italian barlotto; like a risotto but with barley instead of rice. I knew I wanted a barlotto with greens on top, and I decided to add sweet potatoes for warmth and goat cheese for sharpness.

How to flavour the barlotto? I turned to the spices I bought from a lovely North African spice vendor in Paris. I love North African flavours, but I really don’t know these cuisines at all well, so the bright yellow and red spices I brought home tend to find their way into my more, um, experimental dishes. Here, I went for ras-el-hanout, which can have all manner of ingredients, but often includes nutmeg, turmeric, cumin, coriander and cinnamon. The bag I brought home from Paris is fragrant with coriander and nutmeg, with a distinct cuminy undertone that melds perfectly with nutty barley.

For toppings, I used baby red kale and red peppers sautéed in garlic, and I roasted sweet potato with another Parisian find: a mild, bright red chili powder called piment fort. To finish, I added hazelnut and goat cheese. It’s a bit geographically confused, but the overall effect is Mediterranean and has a summery vibrancy despite being filling enough for a winter’s night.

Greens and sweet potato barlotto

  • a cup of pot barley (pearl if you want it to cook quicker, but I prefer pot)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp ras-el-hanout
  • 2-3 cups vegetable stock
  • a bunch of baby kale
  • 1/2 a red pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 sweet potatoes, cut into small dice
  • 1 tbsp piment fort, cayenne, or other chili powder
  • 1/2 a round of goat cheese
  • a handul of hazelnuts

Fry the onion in olive oil and, when browning, add in the ras-el-hanout. Cook it a little in the oil but be careful not to burn it. Add in the barley and enough stock to cover by about an centimetre. Bring to the boil then lower to simmer. Keep an eye on it, stir periodically, and add more stock or water as it dries out. You don’t have to watch barley with anything like the attention of a risotto, but do check in on it every few minutes. It will take about an hour or so to be tender and chewy.

Meanwhile, toss the sweet potato with piment fort powder, salt, and some olive oil and spread out on a baking tray. Roast at a high heat until soft. (This seems to take an age in my oven, so timing is very variable.) On a separate tray, roast the hazelnuts for 15 minutes. When you take them out, wrap in a teatowel for a few minutes, then rub off the skins through the towel.

When the barley is almost ready, fry the garlic and red pepper in a wide pan in more olive oil, then add the kale and wilt. Salt to taste. To assemble the dish, pile barlotto in a bowl then top with greens, sweet potatoes, some nuts and some dollops of cheese.

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