Warm courgette, pearl barley, white bean and basil salad

Courgette saladGee I’m finding it hard to get back into work this year! Is anyone else having the same problem? or is that a silly question. I don’t know if it’s the glorious beach weather or the fact that I’m so over my job that is causing this. I suspect a bit of both.

Quite often I have to eat lunch around 1130am before I go to work and end up having dinner when I get home, anywhere from 730pm -1100pm. So, in summer, these are the dishes I live off, quick fridge and cupboard creations.

Yes it’s vegetarian but I make most of my salads that way. If anything a whisper of shredded chicken or if you want to make it even more substantial some pan fried lamb fillet would work well.

Warm courgette, pearl barley, white bean and basil salad

1 medium courgette

about 55g pearl barley

about 100g cooked white beans (I used cannelini)

1 small spring onion, finely chopped

2 sprigs of basil

persian fetta (optional)

ground pepperberries

Dressing

I large tablespoon greek yogurt

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon good extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Put pearl barley in a small saucepan, cover with water so it’s about an inch above the barley and bring to boil on the stovetop. Reduce to a simmer for 12-15 minutes until cooked but still retaining some bite. While the pearl barley is cooking, slice the courgette. Lightly oil (I used spray) a med-hot pan and lay courgette in a single layer. Lightly oil the side facing up while in the pan and add salt and pepper. Turn then over when lightly browned. Don’t cook the courgette to a mush, you want them to be lightly browned and just cooked through. Mix all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Adjust to taste.

To assemble scatter half the drained pearl barley in your dish, top with half your spring onions, and half your white beans, lay some courgettes over top, and repeat. Top with basil leaves, a small amount of crumbled fetta, dollop a few teaspoons of the dressing around and sprinkle with ground pepperberries. If you don’t like a dairy overload you can choose either the fetta or dressing but I like a little of both. The dressing will keep for two weeks in the fridge. It’s great on other salads too.

Braised Duck, Beans and Bacon

Ahh The July French Issue Gourmet Traveller Challenge landed on my doorstep halfway through June. Don’t you love it when a new one arrives and I used it well.

At the beginning of July I held a 6 course dinner party at a friend’s house. The story goes like this….

My friend, Louise “Would you like to come over for a dinner party on 7th July?”,  Me “sounds fabulous”

Louise “lets meet to plan the menu”, Me “sure, what did you have in mind to make?”

Louise “well I thought you’d have some ideas, it’s all about you and what you’d like to cook for us”  Oh I get it now, sneaky girl. Louise bought all the ingredients and all I had to do was to come and cook! Such a great deal. Sneaky girl, she knew I’d love it.

We ended up doing the main course together and made duck with puy lentils and prunes from a past Gourmet Traveller issue, the recipe is on the website here. It may have been the fact she bought the duck from Terry Wright Butchers, but it turned out so well, falling off the bone. I will be making this one again.

I didn’t take pictures on the night, I needed to make something else so you knew I completed this months challenge. Seeing the month was flying, as usual, and life was so busy I thought I would do something simple.

I made this fish soup recipe by Colman Andrews, well he describes it as a recipe a friend used to cook for him in his tiny Marais flat. It was awful. Sorry, it was. I’m not even going to put up the picture of it. It was that bad. BUT voilà….

I got there in the end, cooking a braised duck, beans and bacon recipe. I guess it’s a take on cassuolet minus the Toulouse sausage. It’s a simple recipe, found here on the website.

Tips and Tricks

I added a few more ingredients to the recipe. When softening the onions I also added a diced stick of celery and a diced small carrot. It’s a rich dish and I think it benefits from the milder flavour.

There is alot of liquid in this dish, I think I would only add enough water to just cover the duck. I threw in a dash of Noilly Pratt to deglaze the pan after searing the duck. If it wasn’t frozen in the depths of my freezer I would have added a Toulouse sausage as well. And yes I do have them in my freezer, I love them.

Oh yeah, I also added finely chopped parsley to the breadcrumbs, purely to add some colour. Just be careful when you sprinkle them on the top before baking that you concentrate them on top of the duck. If you put them over the liquid and beans they soften into it making bread soup, unless you like that sort of thing of course.