Asparagus and broccoli barley risotto

Barley is one of those grains that often hangs out at the back of the kitchen cupboard collecting dust. It’s a great grain to have on hand, but what exactly do you do with it……?

There’s a lot of history to the use of barley; it’s one of the most ancient cultivated grains in the world with evidence of its use over 8000 years ago. Hopefully, that’s not how long it’s been stuck in your cupboard for! Barley was grown as food for humans and animals, plus used for making alcohol; a barley wine recipe from 2800 BCE has been found. And of course, barley water has been used as a medicinal drink for hundreds of years.

But how ‘healthy’ is barley. It is a gluten-containing grain, so if you are gluten free, I’m afraid it’s off your list. It does contain a range of minerals like magnesium and selenium. It also has a good dollop of B3. But the key thing is the fibre. Barley contains a mix of soluble and insoluble fibre, including a type called beta-glucan.

Beta-glucan is a polysaccharide, a long, complex carbohydrate found in oats and barley as well as mushrooms. There’s been a lot of interest in it’s beneficial effects particularly on lowering LDL cholesterol, anti-cancer effects and generally supporting the immune system, which is never a bad thing! Of course, lots of the research delves into to trying to find compounds to extract and use as medicine, but all of these beneficial compounds found in foods work as a team, so it’s always good to just get them directly from the food on your plate.

image by Joshua Newton via Unsplash

I use barley in various dishes including soups, stews and porridge. It also works as a tasty alternative to rice for risotto, giving a slightly nutty flavour and firmer texture. This recipe includes my favourite seasonal vegetables – asparagus and broccoli. If you can still find some purple sprouting, then go for that, but otherwise long-stem or calabrese are both fab. And if you are reading this and neither asparagus or broccoli are in season, then sub for which ever veggies are as the base recipe is the same.

If you are gluten free, then barley may well not be for you (particularly if you have an allergy or intolerance), so just sub with arborio or even red rice – both are still excellent.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. If you make it, do let me know how you get on. And if you’re on instagram, please tag me in a post – you can find me @thesensitivefoodie.

Asparagus and broccoli barley risotto

A super tasty alternative to rice-based risotto, full of fabulous fibre and healthful nutrients.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Servings 4 small portions

Ingredients
  

  • 1 medium onion, red or white diced
  • 2 medium sticks of celery trimmed and diced
  • 1 small head of broccoli stem and florets separated. Stems finely chopped, florets roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic grated
  • 8 long asparagus stems tips and stems separated. Stems chopped
  • 8 cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 heaped teaspoon dried thyme
  • 200 grams barley well rinsed
  • 150 ml vegan white wine optional
  • 600 ml vegetable stock plus 150ml extra if wine not used
  • 1/2 lemon grated rind and juice
  • 120 grams peas defrosted if frozen
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley finely chopped to garnish (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Heat a couple of tablespoons of water in the base of a medium-sized pan. Add the chopped onion and celery with a pinch of salt. Sauté for 5 minutes on a medium heat, adding more water so the veggies don't stick.
  • Add the broccoli stems and garlic to the pan and sauté for 2 more minutes before adding the cherry tomatoes and chopped asparagus stems. Cook for 3 minutes then stir in the dried herbs, grated lemon rind and barley. Stir well and cook for 1 minute.
  • Pour in the wine (if using) or 150ml of veg stock and allow it to bubble away for a couple of minutes before pouring in enough stock to cover the barley. Simmer for 15 minutes adding more stock as needed.
  • Add the chopped broccoli florets to the pan and more stock and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or until the barley starts to soften.
  • Add the peas and remaining stock to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes before finally adding the asparagus tips. Leave these on the top of the mix to lightly steam for a few minutes whilst the remaining stock is pretty much absorbed.
  • Season with salt and pepper and add a little lemon juice. Turn off the heat and leave to rest for a couple of minutes. Serve with a garnish of parsley and a little extra virgin olive oil or cold-pressed flaxseed oil if desired.
Keyword easy dinner, easy vegan, OMS friendly, plant-based diet, rissoto

Okra and potato masala

Okra is one of those ‘marmite’ vegetables – you either love it or hate it. I’ve not come across many people who don’t really have an opinion! Personally, I love it, but I do get why some of you don’t – it’s the slime factor!

I fell in love with okra years ago when I first discovered bhindi bajee at the local curry house. It was always my go-to side dish, although I tend to avoid it now as it’s often drowned in oil. When I went to India, though, I discovered there was so many more dishes it could be used in and used to cook with it on a regular basis. Of course the advantage there was it was locally grown and fresh; most okra bought in Europe has travelled a long way and can lose its vitality and flavour, which is a shame.

Okra contains some great nutrients including a good dose of magnesium, vitamins C, B6, folate and K. It also has some powerful antioxidants including polyphenols which have been connected to good brain and heart health, which is good to know.

The fibre is the star of this veg for me – or rather the mucilage is. This slimy type of fibre has two powerful supporting roles when it comes to health. 1) it binds with excess cholesterol and transports it out of the gut 2) it lowers the sugar absorption so can help maintain stable blood sugars and support people with diabetes. In fact, if you already have diabetes and are prescribed metformin, you might be advised to avoid okra as it is so effective. Which is a shame. It just shows how powerful food is when it comes to promoting good health. And why changing diet and lifestyle before going to medication can make such a big difference.

This masala is super easy to make – don’t be put off by the list of ingredients as those are mainly spices and flavourings. You can make this as spicy (or not) as you like; if you’re not into heat then leave out the fresh chilli and use just a little chilli powder. That way you get all the flavour without the burn. If you’re not in a hurry, make this in advance and leave the flavours to develop. Leftovers taste great the next day or can be frozen for another time.

I hope you enjoy this super tasty curry – the taste as well as the super body benefits. If you give this a go, do let me know how you get on.

If you’re interested in discovering more about how the food you eat can affect your health (and the world around you), then check out my online courses by clicking here.

Okra and potato masala

A super tasty vegetable curry that is packed full of healthy fibre and amazing flavours
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4 medium portions

Ingredients
  

  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 cm chunk fresh ginger peeled and grated
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic peeled and grated
  • 1 medium red or green chilli deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder kashmiri if possible
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 medium potatoes scrubbed and diced
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 250 grams okra washed, trimmed and cut into 3cm chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon garum masala

Instructions
 

  • Toast the cumin and mustard seeds in a medium sized pan until they start to pop. Remove the pan from the heat and leave for one minute to cool slightly, then carefully add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan (it will be super hot and sizzle so take care). Put the pan back on the heat and add the onion and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 5 minutes then add the chilli, ginger and garlic to the pan. Cook for another 2 minutes, adding a litte more water if needed.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, chilli powder, coriander powder and ground turmeric to the pan. Stir well to combine and cook for another 2 minutes before stirring in the chopped potatoes and tomato purée. Stir well to coat the potatoes then add enough water to create enough fluid to just cover them. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes until the potatoes are just cooked.
  • Add the okra to the pan and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so until it is just soft - try not to over cook it or you will get more slime than you might enjoy!
  • Season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with fresh coriander and a sprinkle of garum masala (both optional).
Keyword curry, gut health, no oil, okra, OMS friendly

Brain food

Have you ever thought about how the food you eat directly affects your brain? As its Brain Awareness Week, it’s worth sparing a minute or two to do just that. Do you give your brain what it needs?

The brain is the hungriest organ in the body. Mind you that’s not surprising really as it’s always on the go, managing and controlling everything else in the body, even (and particularly) when we’re asleep. 25% of the body’s energy supply (in the form of glucose, its fuel of choice), is used in the brain Continue reading “Brain food”

Autumnal delights – pumpkin and squash

This is the first year I’ve tried to grow squash in my little vegetable patch. A bit late in planting them out, they’re still not quite ready despite the weather beginning to change. They seem happy where they are though, for now, and will hopefully grow and ripen a little more than this!

You will find a number of links to different pumpkin or squash recipes on my blog – I have a bit of a thing for this wonderful veg! During the autumn and winter months, it’s a staple in our house, appearing in recipes at least twice a week. Apart from their versatility, sweet flavour and smooth velvety texture, these wonderful vegetables are an amazing source of nutrients, bringing a burst of veggie sunshine in the long, grey months.

Pumpkins and squash really can help to keep the body healthy during winter. You only have to look at the amazing orange coloured flesh to know it’s packed full of goodies. Winter squash have been found to have the highest percentage of beta-carotene of any vegetable. Beta-carotene is the plant form of vitamin A (easily converted in the body), essential for healthy eyes, skin and immune system. There are many types of beta-carotenes, wonderful little phytonutrients that acts as co-enzymes and catalysts for metabolic processes – all things that keep us functioning properly. On top of that, pumpkin and squash also contains an amazing array of anti-oxidants, including vitamin C, that help mop up harmful free-radicals, and a great selection of B vitamins, and essential minerals like magnesium, manganese, potassium and calcium.

And it doesn’t stop there. The sugars in pumpkin and squash are super-healthy too. Not only are they full of fibre, they also contain a specific type of polysaccharide sugar called homogalacturonan (I haven’t just made that name up, honest!) that has special anti-inflammatory effects on the body particularly for heart disease and diabetes. The fibre also contains pectin, a favourite food for friendly gut bacteria, so benefiting gut health too.

So what’s not to love? Unfortunately, all good things have a not so good side – with pumpkins and squash, it’s how they’re grown. These water-loving veggies can be used to de-contaminate land, as they readily absorb anything in the soil and water. So if there is a lot of soil pollution, that will end up in the final product – and inside you. So it’s best to buy organic whenever possible, or from a reliable source. There is a small organic farm near me that always has a wonderful selection – here’s their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/lainesorganicfarm/.

To celebrate this pumpkinlicious time of year, I’m going to add some extra recipes over the next few week. In the meantime, why not check out one of the yummy recipes already here on the blog? They’re all fully plant-based, dairy free and really tasty. Here are the links to take you there.

Pumpkin pancakes, perfect for breakfast, lunch or any time! http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/pumpkin-pancakes/

These tasty pumpkin scones are easy to make and freeze well https://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/savoury-pumpkin-scones/

How about this tasty dish that matches squash with the nutrient power-house of brussel sprouts! https://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/roasted-squash-red-onion-and-brussel-sprouts/

Pumpkins and squash work wonderfully in soup. Here’s two to try – a gorgeous soup to warm you through http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/happy-earth-day-have-some-gorgeous-squash-soup-to-celebrate/ and a filling winter warmer https://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/roasted-squash-and-barley-soup/

Try this stuffed squash for a satisfying and filling supper http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/stuffed-squash-for-thursday/

This hubby-inspired curry is a winner every time http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/steves-saturday-night-squash-curry/

Watch this youtube video about a family friendly dip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HuweHV24ao&t=16s

Happy eating!