Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted this week by its founder Kalyn and each week it gets more exciting as we approach the 2 year celebration. If you have any ideas on how we should mark this milestone do let Kalyn know.
This week my focus is on Barberries
Barberries (also known as Zereshk) are the fruit of the Barberry Bush which originally grew in Europe, North Africa and Asia. When dried, they produce these deep red and tangy (almost lemony) berries. They are very similar in size and appearance to currants.
Unfortunately the plants presence in Europe is almost non-existent as it harbours a rust that devastates wheat crops. The Spanish famines of the 10th Century have been blamed on the barberry bush. These days its use is mainly confined to Middle Eastern cuisine.
Barberries are high in pectin so they make excellent jams and jellies - old English recipes refer to them as pipperages. They also contain more Vitamin C than oranges.
I'll be using one other unusual ingredient, Amaranth Grain.
Although it is called Amaranth Grain it is a pseudo-grain (much like Quinoa) as neither are true cereal grains. What must be welcome news for Celiacs, Amaranth Grain is Gluten Free.
The grains are quite tiny, similar in size to poppy seeds and when cooked have a slight nutty taste. They are a good source of fibre and protein and contain Vitamins B1 and C as well as Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Niacin, Phosphorus and Riboflavin.
This dish I've made certainly ended up in a place I had not imagined and it's a lesson that you should never really have preconceived ideas of how food should be used and that you should always be open to different possibilities.
My idea started with the barberries and the Persian dish of Jewelled Rice and as I had just purchased amaranth I thought it might be interesting to substitute it for the rice.
From what I can gather, Jewelled rice is a mix of Basmati rice, various dried fruits and nuts (barberries are always present) and saffron and it is usually served alongside meat dishes.
So what I had imagined would be something suited to savoury dishes ended up in the course of cooking, into something totally different.
dried apricots, cut into small dice
fresh dates, cut into small dice
You must cook the amaranth before you can eat it and it's best to follow the directions on the packet. For this particular amaranth use 2½ parts water to 1 part amaranth.
Place the water and amaranth into a pot and bring to the boil - it needs to cook for a good 15-20 minutes until the water has absorbed and the grain has softened.
In relation to the dried fruit and nuts I tended to keep in the spirit of the original dish. It's important that the larger fruit is cut into a small dice, similar in size to the barberries. I haven't given exact measures as I feel this is something you need to add to taste.
Once the amaranth is cooked remove it from the pot - put the pot back on the heat and add a small knob of butter. When the butter has melted add back the amaranth and the prepared fruit and nuts and toss through. Cook over a gentle heat just long enough to allow the fruit and nuts to warm through - this will also allow the barberries to plump up from any remaining moisture in the dish.
Stir through a little Pomegranate Molasses and cook for a minute more before removing it from the heat. Once again I used Pomegranate Molasses as I feel its taste is very much in keeping with the nature of the dish.
This is a close up of the finished dish - the amaranth grains look almost caviar-like and the barberries positively glow crimson against them.
It's only on tasting that I discovered that this wasn't a savoury dish - Paalo described it as "like Bircher Muesli".
When warm the grain has a creamy feel in the mouth and so with that in mind I created a little breakfast or brunch idea...
On a base of jewelled amaranth I've added a good dollop of yoghurt and a extra drizzle of Pomegranate molasses which is then topped with just a spoonful of the jewelled amaranth.
As I said, the finished product is somewhere I never expected it to be and I must say, I'm delighted to have reached this most unusual destination.
Tagged with Weekend Herb Blogging