Many restaurants and cafés are offering ‘new’ eating experiences. But are they so new? Last week it was a kasha salad that tweaked my interest. And my research revealed that kasha, or toasted buckwheat, is one of the oldest dishes in Slavic countries, at least 1000 years old, usually consumed in the form of porridge.
Buckwheat has nothing to do with wheat. It is a fruit seed related to rhubarb and sorrel. So it’s gluten-free and has all the health benefits of whole grains including protein.
Barley is another fashionable salad ingredient embraced by café cooks. It’s a member of the grass family and was cultivated in Eurasia over 13,000 years ago. So — not so new. It was first grown for animals to enjoy but now is used in soups, stews, beer, bread and malt. Barley ranks fourth in the world’s total grain production. It’s also an economical buy.
Packed with fibre, folate, potassium and vitamin B6, barley also helps lower cholesterol in the blood, thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease.
Sago looks like a grain or cereal but it is starch extracted from the sago palm and processed into tiny pellets. It originated in Malaya where it has been a source of starch for generations. And starch is its main ‘health’ attribute — it’s what else you put with it that contains the vitamins, minerals and protein. Sago is most commonly used as a dessert but can be combined with savoury Asian flavours for a salad or side dish.
Kasha and beetroot 'sushi'
Kasha is toasted buckwheat sometimes called buckwheat groats. There is one cup of beetroot liquid in a 450g can of beetroot. Makes 10
1 cup each: water, beetroot liquid, kasha
2 sheets nori
Salt and pepper to taste
1 medium carrot, cut into batons
1 small avocado, stoned, peeled and sliced
1 cup baby spinach leaves, chopped
- Soak the kasha in water to cover overnight. Drain and rinse under cold water. Bring the 1 cup of water and the beetroot juice to the boil. Add the kasha and simmer for about 15 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat, cover and stand until cool. The grain will have absorbed the liquid and be a little sticky.
- Place a sheet of nori, shiny-side down, on a bamboo rolling mat or a clean tea towel.
- Season the kasha and spread evenly over the nori, leaving 2-3cm free on the side furthest away from you. Add some carrot, avocado and spinach across the kasha just back from the centre line towards you. Roll the nori away from you. Seal at the other end. Repeat. Cut the rolls into 3-4cm pieces.
- Great served with wasabi or a mayo and wasabi dip.
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Bella's barley salad
Based on a recipe from vegan friend Bella. One cup of raw pearl barley produces four cups of cooked. The barley is sometimes called pearled barley. Serves 4-6
1 cup pearl barley
3 cups water
1 tsp olive oil
Sea salt to taste
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 tsp each: Dijon mustard, maple syrup
1 clove garlic, crushed
Sea salt to taste
2 shallots, diced
2 tomatoes, seeds removed, diced
2 tsp finely chopped chilli
1 cup whole kernel corn
¼ cup each: chopped parsley, fennel frond
¼ cup each: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
- Wash the barley under cold water. Bring the 3 cups water to the boil and add the barley, oil and salt. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes, until tender. Remove from the heat, cover and stand for 10 minutes. Drain, if necessary. Cool.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the ingredients for the dressing. Add the barley and salad ingredients. Mix carefully.
- Serve topped with the seeds.
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Raspberry sago souffle
This yummy dessert bears no resemblance at all to ye olde English sago pud. Serves 6
3 tablespoons sago
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups milk
1 large egg, separated
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Combine the sago, sugar, milk and the egg yolk in a saucepan, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and stir constantly for 15 minutes, until cooked. Cool.
- Beat the egg white, until stiff. Gently add the raspberries to the sago mixture and then fold in the egg white.
- Pour into six individual ramekins and bake for 20 minutes. Serve with a raspberry purée and extra raspberries.
Black kibbled wheat salad
Black or purple kibbled wheat is available from specialty whole food stores. Common cracked wheat or bulghur could also be used. Bulghur has been partially steamed so requires less cooking. Both have been popular in Turkey since the days of the Ottoman Empire (1299). Serves 2 as a main
¾ cup black or purple kibbled wheat1½ cups cold water
¾ cup each: sliced beans, whole kernel corn,
½ cup each: diced telegraph cucumber, mung bean sprouts
50g creamy feta, diced
2 Tbsp each: sliced Italian parsley, mint, coriander
1 cup baby spinach leaves
¼ cup lemon juice1 tsp honey
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp each: fennel seeds, black sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
- To cook the cracked wheat, wash well in cold water then place in a saucepan with the 1½ cups of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 12 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork. Cover and stand, until cold.
- Blanch the beans and corn kernels in boiling water, until crisp tender. Refresh in icy water. Drain and pat dry.
- Place all the remaining salad ingredients in a bowl and toss.
- Whisk the dressing ingredients and drizzle over the salad. Mix well. Garnish with the seeds.