It Happened. [Spiced Coconut Barley with Pistachios and Maple]


It happened. 

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! 

 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 bite 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

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.
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.


Milk Shop Blog Guest Post [Pistachio-Rosewater Cupcakes]

I’ve started doing bi-monthly sweet-treat posts on the Milk Shop Blog to bring you all a little something to up your cavity count (surprisingly, I am a cavity virgin - so I think you’ll be ok, too!)

This month, I’ve shared a recipe for Pistachio-Rosewater Cupcakes that bring the flavours of the Middle East and nestle them into a North American tradition. They are simple, delicately flavoured, and oh-so-very-pretty to look at.  

Head on over and see the recipe here!


Weddings and Cupcakes [Rosewater Pistachio Cupcakes]

As you may recall me mentioning a while back, I used to run a very itty bitty baking business. It happened out of nowhere and ended as quickly as it started. I’d never hoped to be a baker, but when asked if my products could be purchased, I thought “Why not? Can’t be that hard.” How naive I can be sometimes. It was a lot of work, albeit rewarding. I took on the task for just over a year, and during that year I kneaded my way through hundreds of scones, iced many a cupcake, filled jars upon jars of bacon jam, and even managed to work my way through my first three tiered wedding cake. It was an undertaking I will never regret and one I think back on fondly. But ultimately, my place is here, with you. Typing my way through recipes on a clean (not clean) keyboard and not with a sticky pastry bag in my hand.

I only made the decision to stop NoshFood a few months ago so I have still being working my way back to baking. I’ve found it’s much more enjoyable when you’re not panicking that a customer won’t like the way something they’re paying for turned out. I never really felt comfortable giving away boxes of goodies to be judged. That being said, I still take on the occasional baking project for friends and family.

I was asked to do the cupcakes for my best friends’ brother’s wedding coming up in May. Luckily, it’s a fairly small wedding at 80 attendees (not nearly as terrifying as a three-tier cake for 150). Thankfully, the couple is incredibly laid back and didn’t ask much more of me than to know what I was going to make, and what the cupcakes would look like. Of course, I happily obliged.

With the wedding just around the corner, I wanted to make sure the one cupcake I hadn’t made before would be as delicious as I was promising. The groom, as well as many of the guests, is Lebanese and I wanted to do one with some traditional flavours. Few things are more traditional in the sweet-sense than rosewater and pistachios.

I based this cupcake off a few different recipes and was quite happy with the way they turned out. The cake itself was moist and light, with a subtle but recognizable rose-flavour. The icing was sweet and rosy with a slight saltiness from the pistachios. For someone who isn’t the biggest rosewater fan, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed them. It didn’t hurt that they were perfectly adorable to look at, either. 

Rosewater Pistachio Cupcakes
adapted from Bake.Create.Love

Rosewater can be found at most Middle Eastern Markets.

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch fine grain salt
3 tbsp ground pistachios
3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
1 egg, room temperature
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract 
1-2 tbsp rosewater (1 if you like very subtle, 2 if you like things rosier)

2 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tbsp milk
5 drops red food colouring
2 drops vanilla extract
1 tsp rosewater
1 tbsp ground pistachios

Preheat oven to 325. Line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and pistachios. Add the butter and beat on medium until it becomes sandy in texture.

Whisk the milk, egg, vanilla and rosewater. Add it to dry ingredients in three shots, mixing on medium between each addition. Once all the wet ingredients are in, mix on medium-high speed for 15 seconds.  

Spoon into liners until 2/3s full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until just barely golden brown. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the centre of cupcakes. If it comes out clean, they are cooked. If any wet batter comes out, bake for a few more minutes.

Remove from muffin-tin and let cool on a wire rack.

Beat sugar and butter together over medium-high speed until blended and smooth. Add the milk, food colouring, pistachios and vanilla. Beat again until blended scraping the bottom of the bowl mid-way through. If icing is too thin, add more sugar. If too thick, add more milk a teaspoon at a time. Pipe onto completely cooled cupcakes.


(un)Comfortably Spiced (Turkish Kebabs, Pomegranate Relish, Tahini Yogurt)

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve officially branched out. Not too far, now. I’m not building cakes out of mashed potatoes and meatloaf or drinking turtle’s blood sakes. Oh no, I’m not branching out that far. Maybe twigging out would be a  more appropriate phrase.  I’m just slowly poking my head out of the hole that is my culinary comfort zone.

I grew up on a fairly ’plain’ diet. Somewhat bland, typically spice-free, keep-the-flavour-to-a-dull-roar type of diet. Mashed potatoes and chicken strips, hamburger helper, pasta with jarred sauce… you know the diet I’m talking about. I should mention, in case either of my parents are reading, that this was the type of food I chose to eat. I bet my dad would have loved if I were to sit down and ask for a big plate of liver and onions, as we so often joked about as kids.

As I’ve learned to cook, and become more comfortable with different flavours and textures, I’ve tried to incorporate a bigger variety of spices, vegetables, oils and vinegars to my food. However, I’ve done so in a very comfortable way that hasn’t forced me to stray from the foods I’m used to. Until now.

Eating healthily is not always exciting or flavourful, but if you learn to use spices in place of butter and salt, you’d be surprised at how much flavour you can get out of your food without any added fat/sodium.

My best friend, Amanda, is Lebanese and comes from a family with a very dedicated and talented mother who cooks extremely health conscious, fresh, delicious meals everyday. She has a giant garden that she cooks from in summer months and tends to preserve everything the season’s bounty has provided her with. I’ve been privileged, on more than one occasion, to eat her food and have never tried anything I didn’t like. I have to say that her steak tartare is one of the best I’ve had. Full of flavour and such a nice texture. She knows how to make the best of the spices and ingredients she has.

When I saw Ana Sortun’s recipe for a middle-eastern inspired dish in this month’s Bon Appetit, I knew if there was anytime to branch out and cook a style of cuisine I was unfamiliar with, it was now.

These kebabs are good. I’m not usually a huge fan of chicken breast but when soaked in a marinade of grated onion, baharat, oil and lemon juice, it becomes moist and full of flavour. The colourful pomegranate-pistachio relish and cooling tahini-yogurt sauce were the perfect accompaniment to the perfectly spiced chicken.


Turkish-Style Chicken Kebabs with Pomegranate-Pistachio Relish and Tahini-Yogurt Sauce
Recipe from Bon Appetit

Baharat Seasoning
1 1/2 tablespoons dried mint 
1 tablespoon dried oregano 
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander 
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin 
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

Tahini yogurt:
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
1 tablespoon Baharat seasoning
1 large garlic clove, pressed 
1/2 cup plain whole-milk Greek-style yogurt 
1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste) 

Pomegranate Relish:
1 1/4 cups pomegranate seeds 
2/3 cup shelled unsalted natural pistachios, coarsely chopped 
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley 
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 

1/2 cup coarsely grated onion 
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 teaspoons baharat seasoning
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves, each halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 3 pieces 

Warm pita breads  (optional)

Baharat Seasoning:
Using pestle or blunt end of wooden spoon, mash all ingredients and 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper in mortar or small bowl 2 to 3 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.

For tahini yogurt:
Combine lemon juice, Baharat Seasoning, and garlic in medium bowl; stir to blend. Let stand 5 minutes. Whisk in yogurt and tahini. Season tahini yogurt to taste with salt. DO AHEAD: Can be made up to 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

For pomegranate relish: 

Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

(the best way, in my opinion, to get the seeds out. Place a mesh sieve in a large bowl, cut pomegranate in half, face cut side down in your hand, rap on the back with a big wooden spoon until seeds are released. Great for anger management, too!)

For chicken:
Whisk first 4 ingredients in large bowl. Add chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Marinate at room temperature at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.

Preheat broiler. Thread 6 chicken pieces onto each skewer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on small rimmed baking sheet. Broil chicken until cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Arrange kebabs on platter. Serve with tahini yogurt, pomegranate relish, and warm pita breads.  


Heavenly Green Pasta

I wasn’t planning on posting today. Mostly because I figured I’d be having something boring and typical for dinner… until I saw this on Pinch My Salt. Farfalle with PISTACHIO CREAM SAUCE.

GET OUT OF FRIGGING TOWN! Pistachios… and cream?! Who is this and how does (s)he know my inner most desires? This was too good to be so easy. Great for a dinner-for-one but impressive and delicious enough to entertain with. It just doesn’t get any better.

Farfalle with Pistachio Cream Sauce

8oz Farfalle (about 5 cups uncooked) or Penne
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced fine
1/4-1/3 C unsalted pistachios, ground in a food processor/blender
Olive oil
1/2-3/4C heavy cream
Cayenne pepper, few pinches depending on taste
salt and pepper to taste
Parmigiano Reggiano to serve

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (my whole wheat farfalle took 10 minutes to become al dente). Strain and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat some olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the diced onion and cook until just translucent. Don’t let it get brown. Add the ground pistachio and mix. If they are already like a paste, don’t add any more olive oil. If the mixture is still slightly dry, add just enough olive oil to make it into a paste. Add the cayenne pepper. Taste it and add salt to taste. I used salted pistachios so extra salt was not necessary.

Add the cream and let it reduce a little until it coats the back of a spoon.

Toss strained pasta and sauce together and serve with lots of fresh ground pepper, remaining 2tbsp of ground pistachios and Parmesan!

…and get ready to fall in love.

(I did not enjoy this. At all. Obviously.)