Colour and spice

Indian-spiced pearl barley with toasted macadamia nuts, golden cauliflower, courgette crisps and minty raita

Free interpretation time. A vegetarian challenge.

I wanted colour and spice. I decided on pearl barley with Indian-spices cooked with grated baby beetroots for a vibrant red colour. When I read “purple carrot” on the ingredients list I thought it would have the orange sunburst at the core. I imagined that looking awesome on the plate next to my red barley. Sadly the purple carrots were just, well, purple. They were not purple dragon carrots. Boooo! Now I know there are different types of purple carrots. Silly me.

I didn’t want to waste the beetroot stems so they were quickly blanched them and shaken in hot olive oil to serve. Fresh borlotti beans were simmered then fried in olive oil and cumin until they crisped and popped. Possibly superfluous in hindsight. The pearl barley bulked up more than I expected.

More colour please. Yellow courgette crisps—first disgorged in a little salt, dried between paper towel, then roasted in the oven. And baby cauliflower, blanched in turmeric water then charred in the oven.

A bit of green. Minty raita. Yoghurt, hung for 30 minutes, was emulsified with olive oil then blitzed with lots of mint leaves, a few coriander leaves and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

For me, the tastiest thing on the plate were the toasted macadamia nuts. Deeelishh! And lovely with the pickled red onions.

Chef wanted us to serve from clean sections. That meant a clean worktop, fridge and oven, set up with all the required pans and bowls, colander and jug. Like it’s not hard enough just serving hot food on a hot, clean plate.

I thought the flavours worked together but they were flat. Chef said the same; the spices needed lifting with more acid. More lemon juice or a splash of vinegar. I knew this deep down. I’d already put half a lemon’s juice into the barley. I don’t know why I didn’t squeeze the second half in.

Chef explained how a cauliflower’s flavour goes dull when roasted. It can be lifted easily with a squirt of fresh lemon as soon as it comes out of the oven. Good to know. I roast a lot of cauliflower. I’ll give that a go.

A decent result for a first iteration but I wasn’t happy with the plating. The design got away from me as soon as my first spoon of raita hit the plate. The presentation ended up lopsided on the plate. Not a happy bunny but glad to be done.

Next week, the degustation event. Time for teamwork.