So, this will be terribly dull but I'm going to expose you to my evening meal thought processes...
It was a week or so ago and I started thinking about dinner around lunchtime, as usual. Throughout the afternoon I was thinking about the half a head of broccoli languishing in the fridge, and about what vegetables might be cheap and available at the shops. Winter - root vegetables right? I thought about carrots and celeriac and swede and turnip and parsnip and about roasting, mashing, soup, sauces.
But nothing was really calling out to me. It was when I was on the tube that I suddenly thought about cauliflower - quite a wintery vegetable I think, and one that I love when it's roasted - crispy and sweet, quite elevated from the usual boiled cauli one comes across.
But what with? It's nice with a tomato and caper sauce, maybe some potatoes on the side. But something about capers wasn't sitting right with me that evening.
Half way down a rain-sodden street towards the food shop, I hit upon lentils - little nutty green ones; perfect with roast cauliflower. But what else, what else? Lentils plus vegetable does not a meal make...
I reached the shop and popped in some butter, some bread, eyed up the posh and delicious but seriously expensive apple juice, as I always do, and managed to walk away from it. I came to the grain shelves, and quinoa presented itself, and I thought, 'Hello!'. Just recently I'd read about a lovely sounding red quinoa salad. And I've had success in the past with bulghur wheat salads.
But the quinoa was nearly £4! I held it a while, realised that was absurd, and replaced it on the shelf. My eyes alighted upon some other grains I hadn't cooked with before - spelt and rye and some stranger things I can't recall... The rye was a steal at under a £1 and only required 40 mins cooking.
So, rye, lentils... I headed for the veg. Disappointingly dwarfish cauliflowers led me instead to think about squash - another good partner for lentils. And the broccoli in the fridge could go nicely with all that too. A little smattering of sundried tomatoes, perhaps something crunchy - hazelnuts? pine nuts? Finally I had a kind-of recipe sorted!
Seriously, if I didn't think about food all day long I don't know what my head would be full of...
Anyway, the rye was a huge success. Easy - just boil for 40 minutes (I used 1 cup rye to two cups of water, which was a good proportion, and about enough for 3-4 servings) and really nutty and satisfying.
I added the lentils to the rye after about 10 minutes - 1/2 cup with another cup of water - and cooked together to save space.
Meanwhile, I roasted parboiled squash and broccoli florets with some dried tomatoes I'd rehydrated in boiling water (these burnt - I should have just added them at the end!)
The whole lot was mixed together with a load of olive oil and a little red wine vinegar, and topped off with an avocado.
It seems great minds think alike, as Julia posted a delicious sounding similar kind of dish recently, with farro, another grain I've never cooked with, but am now keen to try. I definitely think her suggestion of a squeeze of lemon juice would have been ideal for my version. Perhaps a little parmesan too.
The possibilities with this kind of thing basically are endless - a grain, a pulse, a softer vegetable (roast squash, avocado, roast peppers, courgettes... ), something for crunch (red cabbage thinly sliced, pomegranate, pine nuts, celery...), perhaps even some cheese (feta, parmesan...), and a simple dressing. And there you have an easy-ish, healthy and really delicious meal (the leftovers of which are perfect for lunchboxes too!)