November 03, 2010

Pearl Barley Salad with Caramelised Balsamic Roast Pumpkin, Barberries and Quince

One of the things I most enjoy about living in Sydney is its multicultural food scene. World's cuisines are represented here in a very authentic and affordable style, and I have most certainly gained many new culinary experiments since moving here. Together my partner and I share 4 different nationalities (he claims 3 of them), and I can tell you it's always an interesting event to dine with his parents when we form a group of 2 tall blonds (his German father and myself), 1 fully Asian (his Japanese mum) and one halfie (my partner of course). For an outsider there is room for a lot of bewildered guessing which I shall not go into.

As many immigrants would agree, there is a lot of fusion that happens during the years of living in a new country. This fusion often shows in the food that is eaten, and the way it is cooked and served. My partner's Japanese mum cooks Schnitzels (and everything else) using chopsticks, and that if anything is real fusion! In my cooking my background shows in different ways. For instance, after so many years of living here it still doesn't dawn on me that it is probably not the best idea to cook roasts or casseroles in the midst of a soaring summer.

I must say I'm loving the flavours in this salad. Firstly, I prefer using pearl barley instead of rice because it holds it shape better. I've used caramelised balsamic to marinate the pumpkin and that to me is a match made in heaven. Barberries you can find in speciality shops and I strongly recommend you try them! They are like little jewels hidden in this salad. Quince adds another fruity note to this dish, and I've balanced the sweetness with some red wine vinegar and lemon.
Almonds are in for the texture, but you could use other nuts as well.

Pearl Barley Salad with Caramelised Balsamic Roast Pumpkin,
Barberries and Quince

1,5 cups pearl barley

300-400g pumpkin, cut into chunks
2 tbs caramelised balsamic
1 tbs olive oil

2 shallots, chopped finely
3 tbs barberries
small handful blanched almonds, chopped
1 tbs quince paste
1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
ground black pepper
Himalayan Pink Rock Salt (or normal sea salt)
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1/4 lemon, juiced

Preheat oven to 180C. Toss the pumpkin in the balsamic and olive oil and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until just tender.

Place the pearl barley in a medium saucepan, cover with plenty of water and bring to boil. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes or until just tender. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl.

Whilst the barley is still warm, add in the chopped shallots, almonds and barberries. Mix well to combine. In a small bowl, mix the quince paste with a teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil and some water to form a smooth paste. Add the sauce into the barley mixture and mix well. Season with red wine vinegar, lemon juice, some extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and finely add in the roast pumpkin. Toss to combine.