Barley salad with orange, fennel & black olives

in Savoury, Taste -

This barley salad with orange, fennel & black olives is great both as a refreshing side dish or a light main for those hectic pre-holiday days. 

Barley salad with orange, fennel & black olives

It happens almost every year, around the same time: before the holidays, just when the weather starts getting wintery and the lists of things to do a little longer, as the light each day fades a little earlier. It happens and I am now almost at peace with the almost bizarre combination of feeling at once exhausted and filled with energy. I find myself under the covers often before 11pm, barely able to read more than a page (even though I have this in hand and it is pure pleasure), yet most mornings I get up excitedly, well rested and impatient. There’s meals to plan and gifts to be considered (thought I wait till the 1st of December to do any holiday shopping), cards to be made and outfits to be put together for upcoming festivities. I love all of the above and that too, that weird and exhausting and exhilarating amalgam of  energy and slumber.

Barley salad with orange, fennel & black olives

Barley salad with orange, fennel & black olives

In that light, the meals I gravitate towards most these days are light and bright and flavourful- but mostly light. While I’m testing brownies with all the spices and chorizo popcorn for an upcoming project, the last thing I crave is a heavy meal. While I’m tasting chocolate with Cocoa Runners and trying different versions of cheesy mash, I long for some balance. And it often comes in the form of a very seasonal, very bright and colourful salad: it may be featuring bright and chunky squash or be filled with bold & bright winter colours, but almost always it strikes a balance between being utterly satisfying and filling, without being too heavy or too much.

This barley salad with orange, fennel & black olives, today’s bright star, is all of the above: bright in beautiful yellows, oranges and greens thanks to crunchy chickpeas, juicy orange and fresh fennel, kale & spinach. The always so cool fennel is nicely balanced by the warm saltiness of the olives and the barley is the perfect canvas for them all: sturdy and filling but quite muted as well, it holds everything together, along with delicious extra virgin olive oil, a good pinch of salt, a very generous squeeze of orange and a hint of lemon juice too.

Breath in, breath out. ‘Tis the season.

Barley salad with orange, fennel & black olives

Barley salad with orange, fennel & black olives

WHAT

1 cup barley

1 can chickpeas

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

sea salt flakes & freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground garam masala

1 fennel, washed and thinly sliced (harder parts removed)

1 orange, halved

2-3 big handfuls fresh baby spinach or steamed kale, or a combination of the two

zest of 1/3 lemon

sea salt flakes & freshly ground black pepper to finish off

10-12 black olives, pitted and sliced (or left whole) 

HOW

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (180ºC FAN).
  2. To cook the barely, rinse very well under cold water and place in a small pan along with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10′. Then turn down the heat to low and cook for about 30′, or until soft but not mushy.
  3. Rinse the chickpeas and combine with 2 tablespoons olive oil, the salt, pepper and garam masala and place on a large baking tray.
  4. Roast in the preheated oven for about 20′. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  5. Place the cooked barley on a large serving plate or bowl and top with the crunchy chickpeas, sliced fennel, half of the orange and greens.
  6. Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the juice of 1/2 orange and 1/3 lemon and drizzle over the salad. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste, add the sliced (or whole) olives and toss very gently to combine just before serving.

Leek & pink peppercorn risotto

in Savoury, Taste -

As simple and flavourful as it gets, this leek & pink peppercorn risotto is both humble & festive and perfect for winter’s gloomy days.

Leek & pink peppercorn risotto

Lately, more than usual, I am drawn to one pot dishes, filled with all sorts of autumnal and early winter treats: pumpkins, rough dark green leaves, apples & pears, thick chunks of meat and heaps of spices; I’ve made hearty pies and stews, roasted vegetables with their skin on in big trays paired with just olive oil and big bunches of fresh herbs; I’ve filled sweet potatoes with crunchy beans and melted cheese. Even breakfast is heartier and more rustic, with steaming bowls of almond milk oats, sweet raisins and crunchy nuts. Winter is all about staying in, keeping warm and enjoying all things simple, is it not? Comfort food, a glass or two of good, fragrant wine and meals ending with a sweet satisfying bite- they all make the season worth celebrating, other festivities aside. The mere thought of enjoying these simple comforts is such a good fortune, and one I try not to take for granted. [READ MORE]

Brown butter & hazelnut apple cake

in Desserts, Taste -

This brown butter & hazelnut apple cake is a variation of the one my mom’s recipes: simple, unapologetically straightforward and perfect for fall.

Brown butter & hazelnut apple cake

Enamoured as I am with apples, every autumn they are appear on our table frequently and in different ways: roughly chopped, tossed with dried fruit, toasted nuts and folded into creamy oatmeal; sliced thinly or turned into a jam, topping thick slices of toasted bread, along with tahini and sweet honey; cut in big chunks and added last to cider chicken stews; mixed with pears and spices to fill buttery dough for pies. I have experimented with many different recipes in the last couple of years, yet my favourite by far is my mom’s apple cake. The main reason is possibly nostalgia and missing her and my dad a little too much; but it’s also the flavour, simple, straightforward and utterly satisfying, as well as its rustic looks, with thick apple slices, which she cuts in a hurry on her worn wood cutting board. [READ MORE]

Very addictive homemade chilli oil

in Small bites, Taste -

This very addictive homemade chilli oil is my favourite recipe from Jeremy Pang’s Hong Kong Diner. I LOVE IT with eggs & avocado!

Very addictive homemade chilli oil

I’ve had a soft spot for this book even before it came out- see, the contributing author is Adrienne Katz Kennedy, one of my favourite ladies, mama & cook extraordinaire and vital part of School of Wok for some time now. And of course, I had also experienced first hand the cooking of super chef Jeremy Pang, as all as his generous involvement in the community – so it was a no brainer really. Still, when I got the book, it really blew me away: flicking through the pages, Hong Kong and its vibrant, multicoloured, intense food scene comes to life: there’s street snacks you want to have a passionate love affair with (I tried the pork chop crusty rolls at the book’s launch and I was instantly hooked), dumpling and baos galore (all beautifully photographed by Kris Kirkham), noodle & rice pots you’ll want to burry your head in (I can’t wait to try the steamed rice one with Chinese sausage & salted egg) and lots of sides and extras. [READ MORE]

Carrot soup with buttermilk & grape molasses

in Savoury, Taste -

Warming, spicy and subtly sweet, this carrot soup with buttermilk & grape molasses  is perfect for these first chilly fall days (and nights).

I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m quite certain that my mom’s favourite fall and winter dish to make and serve is soup. Hers have always been and still are always seasonal, colourful and filled with flavours; layers of flavours, which would linger on the tongue and stay with you long after the meal was finished. Some were chunky: with soft root vegetables and maybe chunks of fish or veal, in perfect proportion with the aromatic broth made with simple seasoning and fresh herbs. Others, velvety smooth, usually finished off with lots of freshly ground black pepper and possibly a trickle of the best, fruitiest olive oil. They were served hot, alongside torn thick dark bread and oftentimes, black wrinkled olives and crumbly feta cheese- two usual staples in the family table. [READ MORE]

Apple, blackberry & cinnamon jam

in Breakfast, Desserts, Taste -

This apple, blackberry & cinnamon jam is thick, as sweet as it should and has made me fall in love with apples all over again! 

Apple, blackberry & cinnamon jam

Ever since I moved to London, every autumn, without fail, I find my self in awe of all the apple varieties available: there’s small, sour ones, with light pink and green flesh; and bigger ones, very sweet and very pink; shinny green apples, crunchy and juicy, perfectly sour and refreshing; and then others, large and brownish, with a subtle sweetness which reminds me of pears. One is truly spoilt for choice and one is hopelessly enamoured every year, all over again.

I buy large quantities and I slice and sometimes peel and eat at least one a day; I freeze for smoothies and grate for spicy oatmeal; they’re added in cakes and pies, often alongside juicy, blushing pears, or eaten hungrily, on the spot, with just a drizzle of tahini and another of honey. They’re set aside to be used in warming stews, with sprigs of rosemary or tarragon and sweet potatoes, or even added to buttery mash for a touch of sweetness. Autumn is for apples, every year, and every year I am without fail hell-bent on celebrating apples as I should: often, repeatedly, enthusiastically, hungrily. [READ MORE]

Ginger, lime & toasted nut quinoa

in Savoury, Small bites, Taste -

Of all the speedy dishes my sister’s whipped together, this ginger, lime & toasted nut quinoa is packed with flavour and probably my favourite. Ever. 

Ginger, lime & toasted nut quinoa  

After having lived in different countries for almost seven years, I’ve found myself reconnected with my literal other half again. Alkyoni is back in the UK and her coming here has brought with it all the joy, frustration and memories that I’m sure close siblings share everywhere, always. It’s been a very long time since we’ve lived together, yet being in the same house for about two weeks felt like not even a day had passed; and it also felt like a lot of timed had passed, like we were both the same yet also very different.  I’ve always loved being on my own, despite being very very fortunate with my partners and friends. But I’ve realised a while back that this is probably because I have never been on my own, not really. I’m never alone, as long as she’s around. And she’s always been around, even if we’re countries, or continents away. [READ MORE]

Fig, goat cheese & serrano ham salad

in Small bites, Taste -

I’ve been making this fig, goat cheese & serrano ham salad on repeat ever since coming back from the holidays and I think you should too!

Fig, goat cheese & serrano ham salad

When I think of figs, I immediately picture my father; every time, without a doubt, it’s always him. Even though almost indifferent to food and happy as long as there’s eggs, olives and a slice of bread on the table, my dad has always been enamoured with figs. Most probably, it is because of our fig tree in Pilio: plainly beautiful, with branches lightly green and sticky, it has gifted us with fruit for almost as long as I can remember. Not a lot of them- every year, there’s just enough to allow for a lot of snacking, a couple jars of jam and a handful to take back to Athens, just enough to make us fall in love all over again and anticipate the next summer.

That love took a while to grow; as a kid, I had little interest in figs. Part of it was, I’m sure, because of my father’s consistent efforts to wake us up at the butt crack of dawn to see the sun rise and go fig picking. When I was little, I wanted to sleep and as a teenager, I wanted anything but spend time with my parents. So figs were ignored and overseen and considered much too sticky. I’m not sure when exactly I got my first crush on them; it hit me hard non the less and it’s continued like so ever since.

So every summer and early autumn, it’s all about figs: picking and eating and incorporating them into quick bites and salads, almost always alongside cheese. [READ MORE]

Green baked eggs with spicy yogurt

in Breakfast, Savoury, Taste -

These delicious green baked eggs with spicy yogurt are packed with crunchy cavolo nero & fresh herbs. Serve with a good drizzle of olive oil & crusty bread.

Green baked eggs with spicy yogurt

It’s been a while since I last posted an egg recipe here; In fact, it’s been a while since I last made eggs. I vaguely remember a sad looking, deflated, dense Dutch baby, which somehow found its way into our breakfast table back in August – after that, there has been radio silence on the egg front. [READ MORE]

Easy Living

in Inspiration -

Saying goodbye to summer and its easy living with a love letter to my favourite summer memories. And just like so, I’m almost ready for fall.

Saying goodbye to summer is always hard for me. As enchanting as fall can be, I never want to let go of the easiness that I associate with this season. I drag my feet as much as I can, defy the London weather and change in my routine and I am reluctantly ready around the last days of September; mine and my sister’s birthday is today, which seems as good a time as any to finally embrace autumn and let go of summer. [READ MORE]