This morning was one of those crisp bright winter mornings in Brisbane. Blue skies and clear fresh air, cool enough for a scarf, but warm enough so that by the time you walk down to the cafe you’ve shaken the cold out of your bones. We’ve discovered a favourite new cafe on the corner, opposite the park. It’s only a ten minute walk from home and W loves it because it means a run around in the playground and a shot on the swings on the way down (and usually on the way back as well!).
We don’t often go out for breakfast these days, but this morning we woke up and thought fuck it. It’s a public holiday, we’ve got a whole day with no plans, let’s treat ourselves. And it was so worth it. S got smoked pork with a fried egg served on lightly toasted flat bread with yoghurt, tomato, cucumber and coriander and I got homemade sourdough crumpets with poached rhubarb and honey macadamia ice cream. Pretty decadent for brekky, but let me tell you, SO GOOD.
Of course, when I say we have a whole day ahead with no plans, don’t get me wrong. There is plenty to do. I have work deadlines (until the festival, I will have endless work deadlines), an essay to write, photos to edit, and food to cook. S is baking a bacon and egg pie and his basketball team is playing their first round of finals today. And W no doubt has grand plans of distracting us both from all these things with her cuteness and smiles.
These days the busy-ness of everyday life means that I’m focused on cooking that is simple and nourishing without getting boring. I’m wary of the kind of food rut where I end up throwing together the same meals every week because they are totally effortless, so we’re keeping things interesting by making sure we buy different things at the market each week. Salads have been featuring strongly for lunches, and soups are also a big hit at the moment, or anything really that can be made in a big pot and then re-heated for lunch and dinner the next day.
This barley bowl, though, is my new favourite. It is so simple to throw together and the flavours are fantastic. The cayenne pepper gives the veges a spicy kick that is offset by the creamy avocado and coconut sauce. The barley is nutty and wholesome, though you could easily replace it with brown rice or quinoa depending on what you have on hand. If you’re looking for a little more protein, you could throw some chickpeas in to bake with the veges. Either way, you can’t go wrong!
Sweet Potato Barley Bowl
1 cup pearl barley
3 – 4 small sweet potato (approx. 250 grams)
1 – 2 medium sized carrots
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, to cook
6 tbsps coconut cream
1 small handful coriander
1 small handful mint
Juice & rind of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat oven to 200°c. Chop the sweet potato and carrots into 2cm cubes and in a bowl toss them through with a generous glug of olive oil and the cayenne pepper. Lay them in a single layer on a baking tray and roast for about 20 minutes, until cooked through.
In the meantime, cook your barley according to the instructions on the packet (one part barley to two parts water, bring to a boil then simmer, covered, until the water has absorbed).
Prepare your sauce by finely chopping the coriander and mint and stirring through the coconut cream along with the lemon rind and juice. Add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.
Halve the avocado, remove the seed, peel, and finely dice.
To assemble, dish out the barley into bowls, topping with spoonfuls of the roasted veges and the diced avocado. Drizzle generously with the coconut sauce. Best eaten while warm, but this will easily stand up to a night in the fridge to be eaten cold or reheated the next day.
Notes: if you don’t have any coconut cream on hand, and if you’re not vegan, you could easily replace it with Greek or plain yogurt. Depending on your toleration for spice, feel free to dial up or down the cayenne pepper but don’t leave it out altogether – it gives the dish such a nice kick.