It Happened. [Spiced Coconut Barley with Pistachios and Maple]
After years and years of taunting the stomach flu by eating every single questionable, 40 seconds over the 5 second rule, maybe-sort-of-moldy and definitely expired ingredient in my house, I paid. A nasty old stomach flu that struck me like boot in the face. All kinds of nastiness ensued and my appetite hid warily behind the angry mob that overtook my guts.
All I wanted was something warm and smooth, creamy and satisfying, to ease my stomach into accepting a meal of real, solid food. A few days prior, my friend Chantal had cooked about 50 jars worth of spiced, coconutty rice pudding topped with a sweet, floral strawberry and rosewater jam. It was the only thing I saw when I closed my eyes and shivered in my 40 layers of cotton. I needed it.
After a quick inspection of the cupboards, I realized it was unlikely that I would soon be spooning that cozy little treat into my mouth. I did, however, find a few things to make something similar but different. A creamy barley pudding prepared almost like a risotto, that felt warm and comforting as it snuggled into my aching belly. I followed Chantal’s recipe for rice pudding as a guideline, but used pearled barley in place of basmati rice and added some maple and nuts instead of jam. You can use whichever you please, but the rice pudding would be cooked by using all the liquids at once rather than in small, spaced out additions.
Feel free to play around with the spices, add whatever nuts you please, or even top with some strawberry-rosewater jam. It’s lovely every way you please. I put Chantal’s rice pudding recipe at the bottom of the page too - it is absolutely delicious and you’re missing out if you don’t try it!
Spiced Coconut Barley with Pistachios and Maple
adapted from Chantal’s recipe (recipe below)
Feel free to swap out the cows milk for almond or soy, whatever you’re able to use.
1 ¼ cups pearled barley, rinsed well
1 cup milk
½ cup water
2 cups coconut milk
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cardamom pods
2 tbsp maple syrup + more for garnish
¼ unsweetened coconut, toasted
¼ cup unsalted pistachios, crushed
Place barley in a pot with the milk, water, cinnamon and cardamom. Bring to a boil and let simmer until almost all the liquid has been absorbed by the barley. Add ¼ cup of the coconut milk at a time, letting it absorb for a few minutes in between additions. This process is similar to a risotto so you’ll have to keep an eye on it and stir often.
When almost all the coconut milk is absorbed, the barley should be cooked through but still have a bit of a bit so it’s not mushy. If you like it softer, add a bit more coconut milk (or reg. milk/water) and cook until desired doneness.
Add the maple syrup and toasted coconut and stir. Spoon into bowls and top with crush pistachios and maple syrup.
Chantal’s Rice Pudding
2 cups coconut milk
3 cups 2% milk
8 cardamom pods, crushed
3 cinnamon sticks
2 vanilla beans (slit open)
1 cups sugar
1 cups basmati rice
Steep cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla in liquid. Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to low for 15 min. then add rice and sugar, bring to light boil, then immediately reduce to simmer on low for 45 minutes or until you obtain a loose porridge consistency. You will need to stir often. Top with fresh strawberry jam.
2 cups strawberries, sliced in half
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp good vanilla
1 tbsp rose water
Combine all ingredient in sauce pan and bring to a slow simmer, reduce heat to low for 15 minutes. Strain liquid and puree fruit.
For the Love of Leftovers
There is something to be said for a warm homecooked lunch while you’re plugging away at work, isn’t there?
I find my love for the business district lunch-options dwindling with every soup and sandwich. It’s not that they aren’t good. In fact, they are great. Two of my favs being Lunch, and the newly opened Bowich. But sometimes I just want something from home. A big bowl of stew, a leftover slab of roasted vegetable lasagna, or in the most recent case, a spicy, coconutty curry.
Curry can do wonders for me in the middle of a bad day. Something about it, and I know this isn’t the first time I’ve said it, feels like a big hug from a close friend. A close friend who doesn’t leave you feeling too full to function or unsatisfied and bloatey from a greasy burger. A good friend wouldn’t do that to you. So make a lot, because I have on good authority that this sunny-coloured dish will, in fact, brighten your afternoon.
This curry is quick and easy to make, and easily adaptable to what you have on hand. Use whatever lentils you have (red, yellow split, green, brown etc etc). If you do use all red lentils, keep in mind they tend to breakdown and thicken the curry broth. The other lentils will give some texture and bite to the mix.
I added tofu for a bit of protein and some texture. Feel free to substitute for chicken, tempeh or omit it all together for a smooth curry.
Lentil Tofu Curry
I use a lot of curry paste/powder in this. I like things really spicy and hot. If you prefer something milder, cut the curry quantities.
2 cups lentils of your choice
7 cups water
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tbsp red curry paste
1 tbsp hot curry powder
2 tbsp butter or ghee
5 scallions, sliced thin
1 package extra firm tofu, cut into 2” cubes
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
a few pinches fine grain sea salt
a few handfuls cilantro, rough chopped
Rinse the lentils under cold water until the runoff water is no longer murky.
Add them to a large pot with the 7 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until lentils are soft. About 30 minutes.
While the lentils cook, add the butter to a heavy bottom sauce pan and let it melt. Add the tofu, half the green onions and the ginger and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add the curry paste and powder and cook for another few minutes.
Once the lentils are cooked through, add the tofu curry mixture to the lentils along with the can of coconut milk and a pinch or two of salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and let cook until your desired consistency is reached. I like mine with a little broth but if you like yours thicker, let it cook a little longer.
Garnish with the rest of the scallions and cilantro.