Spinach saffron pearl barley with roasted vegetables
When its cold, wet and dark outside, the oven-side is the best place to be. From the moment the dial is turned to the rush of hot air exploding into the room when the door is opened and the dish removed, the prospect of a delicious meal in a cozy kitchen banishes winter doom and gloom. Through the oven door the Butternut squash gradually softens as the edges of the onions begin to crisp. The shells of the garlic cloves split and the skin on the bell pepper shrivels. In the yellow glow of the oven light the olive oil bubbles and spits in the tray while the whole kitchen fills with the roasting smell of natural sugars caramelizing.
Saffron steeped in warm water
For the vegetables;
- 1 red pepper
- I courgette
- 1 onion
- 1/2 a butternut squash
- 6 big cloves of garlic
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 tbsp olive oil, or enough to coat all the veg
- sea salt and black pepper
For the pearl barley;
- 200g pearl barley
- enough boiling water to cover
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 cloves crushed garlic
- a few big handfuls of spinach
- a pinch of saffron strands
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- a splash of olive oil
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees, roughly chop all of the veg, toss them in a bowl with the oil, thyme and seasoning then distribute on a tray in the oven.
- Steep a pinch of saffron strands in a little warm water and set aside. Bring the pearl barley to the boil in the salted water and simmer for 35 minutes or until nearly cooked.
- Drain the barley and dry the pan. Put the pan back on the heat and gently fry the garlic. Add the barley back in along with the saffron water and the spinach and stir for a few minutes until the spinach is cooked. By this time the Vegetables should be done; either mix the two dishes in a big bowl or serve side by side. Garnish with chopped parsley.
It is delicious as is (and totally vegan), or even better with a slice of warmed sourdough spread with pesto. This meal has the healthiness of a fiber-rich grain, the sweetness of roasted vegetables and an exotic saffron touch. An impressive meal that is very easy to assemble!