This week has been incredibly busy at work. Twelve hours a day at work. Every day. Thankfully I was warmed a head of time. I met with my supervisor the week before and he told me to make sure I was eating, exercising and sleeping that week. Implying I would have no free time once November 1st rolled around. On the sleeping, eating and exercising front, only sleeping has suffered a bit. I cooked up a storm last weekend to have enough portable meals to last me all week. It was a huge help and I plan to do the same tomorrow. So, be prepared for a host of leftover friendly one-pot meals in the next few weeks.
Last month my mom dropped off a huge container of pearl barley. ‘Did you want some?’, she asked. Well, I didn’t want it to go to waste, and I love whole grains, so of course I agreed. But the next question was what to do with it. I really like this French barley salad, but I also enjoy trying new recipes. When I made Happiness Soup, I replaced the rice with barley which worked out really well. So when I spotted a recipe for Eggplant and Cashew Barley on Cate’s World Kitchen, it looked so fragrant and fresh with the heartiness of barley. She had also replaced the rice from the original recipe (from Fresh Indian by Sunil Vijayakar) with barley.
I enjoyed this dish, with the savoury Indian spices including cinnamon, cardamom, chili pepper, mustard seeds and bay leaf. It wasn’t spicy because I didn’t add many chili flakes, and would likely increase it next time. I found the sweet roasted red peppers worked well with the savoury barley, the creaminess from the cashews, and the touch of lime juice added that extra flavour kick. The eggplant was more in the background, but worked well with the dish. I really enjoyed how plump the barley was, because I was worried it would be more saucy like a barley risotto.
Eggplant and Cashew Barley
1 1/3 cups pearl barley, soaked in warm water for 30-40 minutes, then drained
2 red bell peppers
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp Aleppo chili flakes (this wasn’t hot at all, this could and should be increased)
1 cinnamon stick (next time, I may use ground cinnamon for a more pronounced flavour)
2 cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1 medium eggplant, cut into bite-sized pieces (I used 2 Asian eggplants)
1 tsp turmeric
2 1/2 cups water or broth (I would use broth next time)
3 tbsp lime juice (or juice from 1 lemon)
1/2 cup cashews, chopped into pieces
1. If roasting your own peppers, preheat the oven broiler. Line a small roasting pan with aluminum foil. Place the pepper halves in the pan, cut side down, and place in the oven on the shelf closest to the broiler. Broil until the pepper skins are completely black, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, wrap the pepper in the foil and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and rub off the skins of the peppers. Cut the peppers lengthwise into ribbons and set peppers aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high. Add the onion , mustard seeds, chili flakes, cinnamon, cardamom, and bay leaf and stir fry for about 2 minutes. Add the barley and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the eggplant and turmeric, mix to combine, then add the water or stock. Stir in a few pinches of salt, then turn the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, or until the water has absorbed and the barley is tender and the eggplant cooked (if the barley is not soft, add a little water and continue cooking).
3. Turn off the heat and let stand for about 5 minutes, then sprinkle with lime juice, roasted peppers, and cashews.