Mmm Christmas.. possibly the best time of the year to put our troubles aside and celebrate with our family and loved ones. Like most celebrations, the first thing that comes to my mind is what to cook for the occasion! I love entertaining and cooking for the ones I love, so Christmas is the perfect opportunity to do so. People also seem to be more at ease
during the Christmas period, which makes gatherings more warm and enjoyable.
Whenever I have people over, I like cooking a lot of different dishes. This is probably because my favourite cuisine is Middle Eastern, which involves the notion of cooking a
variety of dishes for people to share. I love the idea of my friends gathering around the dining table and feasting on flavoursome food which also looks pretty and delicious. It
fills my heart with warmth to see them enjoy the food which I have cooked for them with love.
I have prepared two recipes which are perfect for your next Christmas gathering or even Christmas lunch. Barley is one of my favourite grains to cook with, so the first recipe is
for a roast beetroot barley salad with toasted walnuts and goats cheese. The combination of flavours and textures in this salad make it very tasty indeed, along with it being light
yet filling… and it looks so pretty! The chopped mint adds a freshness to the deep flavours of the beetroot seasoned with ras el hanout, one of my preferred spices. I like pairing such a salad with either grilled chicken or a vegetarian meal like falafel, yet it makes for a good meal itself during a light and quick lunch.
The second recipe is for Eccles cake, a British treat which is a small round flaky pastry filled with currants and zesty flavours. I decided to make these cakes because they remind me of mince pies, yet with a twist! The warm hearty filling pairs perfectly with the buttery flaky crust. I could barely keeps my hands off them as I took them out of the oven! The recipe requires you to make your own pastry which I know might be intimidating, but trust me it’s not! It is super easy and actually fun and quick to make. These cute little cakes are the perfect addition to afternoon tea at nanna’s on Christmas day!
Roasted Barley Salad with Walnuts and Goat’s Cheese
(Serves 6 as a side)
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.
- Rinse the barley then place it in a pot, cover with water until it reaches a boil, then simmer for approx 25-30 minutes.
- Peel and chop the beetroot, place in a bowl and add the olive oil, salt, pepper, ras el hanout, paprika and garlic powder.
- Mix everything together until the beetroot is fully coated with all the seasoning and transfer to a baking dish. Place in the oven for around 20 minutes.
- When the barley is cooked and drained, place it in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Add the chopped mint and mix.
- Place the barley on a serving plate, add the roasted beetroot on top, drizzle the walnuts around it and crumble the goats cheese on top
- Mix the flour and salt together and then lightly rub in the butter until it’s in small flakes.
- Gradually stir in the cold water until you have a dough.
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle. Fold the top third down to the middle then the bottom third up. Roll out again then repeat, and chill for an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.
- For the filling, mix the sugar and butter until combined, then add in the spices, whisky, juices and zest and mix again.
- Fold in the currants and mixed peel until well combined.
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface (around 4mm thick) and cut out 9cm circles.
- Fill each round with a heaped teaspoon on the filling, then bring the edges together and seal with a little bit of water.
- Put on the baking tray smooth side up and press each cake down slightly to flatten.
- Brush with the eggs white then sprinkle some brown sugar on top and cut 3 small slashes on each cake.
- Bake for around 20-25 minutes until golden.
© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Fran Farrugia