Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge B: Barley: Butternut squash, mushroom, sage & pearl barley risotto

A new month is here and it brings with it a new letter, the letter B, for the Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge. And what ingredient have I chosen for this month´s challenge, I hear you asking...well, I decided to go for a grain which I´ve never tried before and is also very economical...barley. Barley....what do I do with barley you might be wondering. I didn´t know myself until deciding to cook with it but barley can be used in many dishes, particularly soups and stews or even as a main grain to replace rice for example, such as in the following recipe.

 Barley can be bought in various forms, among which are hulled barley, pearl barley and barley flakes. My first problem was that I wanted pearl barley and I wasn´t sure if I´d bought hulled barley or pearl barley!!! If you want to join in with the Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge, you can use barley in any of it´s forms! Barley is a very healthy grain to eat as it contains many essential nutrients, such as protein,dietary fibre,B vitamins and minerals. If  3 grams of barley is consumed daily it can lower blood cholesterol and help regulate blood sugar. You can find out more about the health benefits of barley here.Plus it is a very economical and affordable grain.

 I had intended to make Irish stew in time for St. Patrick´s Day but unfortunately couldn´t find the cut of lamb I was looking for so went for plan B...a risotto using pearl barley instead of rice.It was perfect as I had some butternut squash that needed using up and I could use my home grown sage, which is starting to look a bit like a jungle I have that much of it! I based the recipe on the following BBC Food recipe but modified it a little. We really enjoyed the end result, a rich tasty nutty risotto...the barley tasted a little nutty, if slightly chewy....it maybe could have done with slightly longer but I enjoyed the texture and taste on the whole.

 Ingredients (2 people)
37g butter roughly(I didn´t bother weighing it, just eyeballed it most of the time!)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
110g butternut squash(peeled and diced)...it was all I had left!!
1 sprig of fresh sage,(leaves only, chopped)
1/2 litre of vegetable stock
125g pearl barley, rinsed
3-4 mushrooms, sliced(the mushrooms gave the risotto a lovely earthy flavour as well as padding out the risotto as I didn´t have enough butternut squash)
                                                      salt & pepper
1. Heat around 15g butter( I didn´t weigh just guessed so might have been slightly more or slightly less!)in a saucepan till it melts and then add onion and butternut squash with a pinch of salt.
2. Fry for 10 mins until onion is translucent , then add garlic and mushrooms and cook for a further two minutes.
3.Heat vegetable stock and half the sage in a different pan.
4.Add some more butter (15g) to the onion and squash and mushrooms and then add the pearl barley, turn up heat and cook for 2-3 mins
5.Lower the heat so risotto is on a medium heat and add a ladle of stock to risotto...cook stirring occasionally until liquid has absorbed.
6. Keep adding ladles of stock and cooking until the liquid has absorbed and all the stock has been used up and barley is tender...it should take 30 minutes. If the barley is still chewy or hard, just add more water and cook longer until barley is tender.
7.Season with salt & pepper and add a little more butter(7g?) and stir, then serve and garnish with remaining sage.

Unfortunately I couldn´t get my daughter to try this dish with it being vegetarian but it is a very tasty dish and I really enjoyed the barley.I´m looking forward to the next dish I´m going to make with barley and I hope it´s inspired you to try it too. I´d love you to share your barley recipes!


Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge: Avocado: Avocado, Bacon & Poached Egg On Toast

Thought it was about time for another avocado recipe before moving on to the letter B of the Eat More Variety challenge. I´ve seen a lot of avocado on toast recipes popping up everywhere lately so I thought I´d try it as it seems a perfect thing for lunch or in my case, tea or supper  and appears to be quite healthy. Unfortunately, I didn´t manage to persuade my husband & daughter to try this dish so it didn´t suceed in getting them to eat a more varied diet, which is one of the whole points of this challenge!!So, for now the winning dish is the creamed chicken & avocado but I enjoyed this tasty suppertime treat and avocado is going to become if not a staple, a more frequent food in our diets...I just have to figure out how to sneek it into my husband´s and daughter´s meals!!!I´ll be giving some of these avocado recipes a go too.I´d love to hear any of your favourite avocado recipes and hopefully some of you might participate in this month´s letter B challenge.

After looking at various avocado on toast recipes and a trial avocado on toast recipe, which was a bit of an epic fail, I came up with this recipe as I had some leftover bacon bits, or lardons, that needed using up and based on a recipe for Avocado & Onion sandwich in The Dairy Book of Home Cookery, came up with the following:

Ingredients: (1 person)
2 slices of wholemeal(or white,according to preference) bread
1 small-medium ripe avocado
leftover bacon bits or lardons
2 eggs
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp cream or milk (optional)
Olive oil

1.Mash the avocado with lemon juice, cream and paprika.
2. Poach egg in some boiling water and a splash of malt vinegar
3..Fry the bacon or lardons in some olive oil
4. While bacon is frying, toast the slices of bread
5. Place mashed avocado on top of toasted bread, then the poached egg and place the bacon on top.

I actually only made 1 egg as you can see in the photo and just grated some cheese on top of the avocado & bacon on my second slice of bread but I much prefered the avocado on toast with the poached egg...it just seemed to have more flavour with the runny egg yolk merged with the bacon
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