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Grains of truth

Healthy food doesn't have to be heavy to be satisfying

 

Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee

 

I'm aware that I should eat grains, cereals and pulses, but the truth is I rarely do. It's not that I have an aversion to them; I just worry that they'll be heavy and stodgy, like some of the dishes I ate at health food restaurants when I lived in San Francisco. These salads are filling but not heavy; they'd make great side dishes or can be served on their own as a light meal.

 

Quinoa salad with edamame, cranberries, hazelnuts and pomegranate (pictured)
I love quinoa for its light texture and delicate crunch. With most recipes, I give weight measurements but with quinoa it's easier to cook by volume - use one part quinoa to two parts water.

 

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
Fine sea salt and rough-flaked sea salt
200 grams edamame (green soya beans) pods
45ml extra-virgin olive oil
15ml fresh lemon juice
40 grams dried cranberries
40 grams hazelnuts
The seeds of one quarter of a pomegranate
Grilled vegetables, such as small carrots, zucchini, sliced eggplant, pearl onions (peeled and blanched) and garlic cloves (blanched in the skin)

 

Put the quinoa in a fine-meshed sieve and rinse it thoroughly under cold running water, then drain. Put the quinoa in a saucepan with the water and a quarter of a teaspoon of fine sea salt. Stir to combine, then place the pan over a medium flame and bring to the boil. Cover with the lid, lower the flame and cook until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and leave in the covered pot for about 15 minutes.

While the quinoa is cooking and resting, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Put the hazelnuts in a small pan and bake them for about 10 minutes or until they smell lightly toasted. When they're cool enough to handle, rub the hazelnuts between the palms of your hands to remove the skin. Coarsely chop the hazelnuts. Bring a pot of heavily salted water to the boil. Snip off and discard the very tips of the edamame pods then put them in the boiling water and cook until they're just tender (about 10 minutes). Drain them and put them in a bowl of ice water, then drain them again and remove and discard the pods. Dry the green soya beans on paper towels. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate, rinse them with cold water then drain them on paper towels.

After the quinoa has rested, fluff up the grains with a fork. Mix the quinoa with the olive oil and lemon juice. Taste for seasonings and adjust if needed. Gently mix the quinoa with the dried cranberries, hazelnuts, edamame and pomegranate seeds, then pile onto a plate. Add the grilled vegetables then sprinkle with rough-flaked sea salt and serve.

 

Corn, tomato and barley salad with anchovy and lemon dressing
Anchovy paste is a convenient product that comes in tubes. You can also use anchovy fillets in olive oil, and mash them to a smooth purée. Adjust the amount according to how much you like anchovies; the smaller amount gives just a hint of the flavour. For a vegetarian version, omit the anchovy paste and use grainy mustard.

 

200 grams pearl barley
2-3 ears of corn
15ml cooking oil
10 cherry or grape tomatoes
2 medium-sized shallots
The finely grated zest of one lemon
A large handful of arugula leaves
A chunk of parmesan cheese
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

For the dressing:
1-2 tsp anchovy paste
30ml fresh lemon juice
90ml extra-virgin olive oil

 

Rinse the barley thoroughly under cold running water, then drain. Put it in a bowl and add enough cold water to cover by about 3cm, then soak it overnight in the fridge. Put the barley and water in a saucepan and add more water so it's again covered by about 3cm. Stir in one teaspoon of salt then set the pan over a medium flame and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan with the lid and simmer until the barley is tender. Drain the barley and put it in a bowl. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the barley while it's still hot, stirring it in thoroughly. Leave to cool.

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add the corn and blanch for one minute. Drain the corn, then slice the kernels from the cob. Heat the cooking oil in a wok and, when it's very hot, add the corn and a light sprinkling of salt and cook, stirring often, until the kernels are blistered and slightly charred. Leave to cool.

Slice the tomatoes in half, sprinkle them lightly with salt and stir to combine. Halve the shallots then thinly slice them. Rinse with cold water, then drain.

Mix the tomatoes, shallots and corn with the barley mixture, sprinkle with pepper then taste for seasonings, adjusting if necessary. Use a vegetable peeler to shave pieces of parmesan over the barley and stir to combine, then gently mix in the lemon zest and arugula leaves. Pile the mixture into a bowl and shave more parmesan over the top before serving.

 

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