Right now it seems the health conscious are going gluten-free or dairy-free or vegan or all-three. But being health conscious is not a new thing. I grew up in the 70’s and the health fads of that era were alive and kicking.
We had a neighbour, Mrs V, who had a son who had married a woman who was a thing called a vegetarian. ‘What is that Mrs V?’
‘It means she doesn’t eat meat’.
‘What does she eat then?’
‘Fruits and vegetables’.
‘What does she cook if she’s having a roast?’
‘She doesn’t cook roast dinners’.
‘Why doesn’t she eat meat?’
‘She doesn’t like to eat animals.’
‘Does she eat fish?’
‘Why does she eat fish and not meat?’
‘Well, we’re not sure’.
‘What do her children eat?’
‘Well, they’re not vegetarian but a true vegetarian doesn’t like to cook with meat so she doesn’t cook meat for them.’ I was struggling. Struggling to understand the concept of being presented with a meal with no meat on the plate. I imagined a big gap on the plate where the meat should have been.
And it got worse. A few years later we were told she wasn’t eating anything from any animal so she’d cut out fish and dairy and eggs too. We couldn’t understand it. And adults under hushed tones were calling her, ‘alternate’. As well as the narrowed diet, she’d taken up an Eastern thing called yoga and she would sit on a mat and meditate. My sister and I didn’t say anything but we thought the woman was barking mad.
My parents were not extremists but that isn’t to say they weren’t health conscious. We were not allowed white sugar on our cereal, it had to be raw. ‘White sugar is too refined’, we were told. And my father used to tell us that instead of having raw sugar on our cereal we would probably prefer it with a generous sprinkling of wheatgerm. If you haven’t tried it, wheatgerm is like sawdust. But in the 70’s wheatgerm was being touted as a ‘super-food’.
And when my mother would cook French toast (which was only on special occasions) my father would tell us that it would be much more delicious with a light seasoning of salt and pepper instead of a smothering of maple syrup. We didn’t agree.
If we were hungry after dinner we weren’t offered a selection of chocolates, we were given an apple. ‘It will fill you up and clean your teeth’, my mother would say.
If we were thirsty there was ‘plenty of water in the tap’. Cordial was allowed on special occasions as long as it wasn’t the highly coloured red and green varieties and as long as it had been adequately diluted.
But nothing else was off-limits. And we were healthy.
Here’s a recipe for the health conscious of this era. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan and delicious.
Roasted Vegetable and Caramelised Garlic Barley Risotto
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: If rice is cheap, barley is cheaper. This vegetarian meal is very inexpensive.
- 2 onions
- 12 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 1 bunch baby beetroot, cut into wedges
- 250g peeled butternut pumpkin, chopped
- 2 springs each of thyme and rosemary
- 1/3 cup (80ml) EVOO
- 350g pearl barley
- 100ml white wine
- 1ltr (4 cups) vegetable stock
- 25g grated parmesan, plus extra to serve (omit the cheese if wanting to make this dairy-free)
- 2 tbs chopped basil, plus leaves to serve
Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel and finely chop 1 garlic clove and 1 onion. Set aside.
Cut the remaining onion into thin wedges and place in a large roasting pan with the carrot, beetroot, pumpkin, herbs and remaining garlic. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add 2 tbs oil, stir to coat and roast, stirring a couple of times, for 45-50 minutes until the vegetables are cooked. Remove from oven and rest for 20 minutes.
Heat the remaining 2 tbs oil in a saucepan over medium heat and cook the chopped onion and garlic with a little salt and pepper for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the barley and stir for 1 minutes to coat the grains. Add the wine and simmer until evaporated, then add the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer gently, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the barley is al dente and the liquid is absorbed.
Stir in the roasted vegetables, cheese and chopped basil. Season to taste and serve with extra cheese and basil leaves.
This recipe is from the August issue of Delicious Magazine.
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