Allegra McEvedy's Barley and Bits salad
A hearty salad recipe that makes great use of any leftover veg. (Pearl barley is a really good cheap ingredient that you can also use in soups or stews or for making risotto FB)
Serves: 4 as a starter
Preparation: 15-20 mins
Cooking: 30-35 mins
100g pearl barley or pearled spelt
500ml vegetable or light chicken stock (make it half strength if using a cube)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped with salt to make a paste
salt and pepper
400g any quick-cook veg, cut into 1cm pieces
100g goats cheese
4 slices of bread
50ml extra-virgin olive oil
25g soft herbs (parsley, basil, chives, mint or dill)
1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas 4.
2. Starting from cold, bring the barley and stock up to the boil, then simmer gently for about half an hour. When you can see the barley through the liquid, put a lid on it and turn the heat right down: the idea is that the barley absorbs all the flavour of the stock, rather than having it thrown down the drain. If the barley is cooked but there is still some liquid left, boil it hard for a few minutes until it's all gone, taking care not to let it catch on the bottom.
3. Once the barley is cooked, stir in half of the garlic paste, then season well and spread out on a plate to cool.
4. Rinse the pan out, fill it with salted water and bring to a rolling boil. Drop all of your vegetables into it, stick a lid on and prepare a bowl of very cold water, preferably iced. As soon as the veg pan comes back to the boil (2 to 3 minutes), strain and tip the blanched vegetables into the cold water (this keeps them green and stops them cooking, which is essential for this super-fresh and crunchy salad). Once the veg is cool, drain it.
5. Split the goat's cheese among the four pieces of bread, then drizzle with honey - about half a teaspoon on each. Put a piece of foil on a baking tray and bake them in the oven for about 12 to 15 mins. You will smell it when they are ready: the cheese will have melted and the honey caramelized.
6. Rustle up the dressing with the juice of half the lemon. Whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil, stir in the remaining garlic and finish with the chopped herbs.
7. In a big bowl, mix together the barley and veg bits with the dressing and some seasoning, then taste. You want this one to be dressed pretty sharply to play with the honey. Serve with lemon wedges and the scrum toasts.
'This recipe was first featured in Allegra's TV series Economy Gastronomy' a couple of years back. The book of the same name by Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett is published by Michael Joseph at £20.