I love grain salads, a welcome change from the heavily wheat based French diet and for their ability to bring a different texture and flavour without major investment in terms of time or money. I have made a simple, but fundamental change in my own cooking when preparing grain and rice based dishes in increasing the ratio of vegetables and herbs versus carbs.This is not only healthier, but also much tastier and stops the vegetable aromas being drowned out by the stodge. This dish is a good summer dish, but also works well when the tomatoes are no longer at their peak, as roasting them for a bit brings out more flavour and concentrates the sugars. You can of course add other roasted vegetables to it to your liking, but I love the gorgeous simplicity of really tasting the thyme and the tomato.
To serve 4 you need:
- 6 tomatoes or 25 cherry tomatoes roughly chopped
- 1 sweet onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled
- 1 bunch of (preferably) fresh thyme
- 150 g barley
- some black olives to garnish
Pre-set your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Get your barley cooking in plenty of salted water- it needs a good 30-40 minutes cooking time (refer to instructions on your pack) to give it a nice chewy, but not too soft texture.
While the barley is cooking, put a generous glug of Olive Oil in a roasting tin and add the chopped sweet onion and the whole garlic clove. Pick thyme leaves off 2 or three sprigs and add to the oil- the more herbs the better really. Leave it to cook in the oven for a few minutes to let the thyme and onion flavours infuse the oil, then add the tomato chunks. Roast for about 15-20 minutes, you don’t want it to turn to mush, yet you want that concentration of lovely flavours and juice. Turn off the oven and leave it there with an open door.
Once your barley’s cooked, rinse with hot water to stop it from sticking and add some olive oil. Take the tomatoes out of the oven and gradually add the barely to your roasting tin, making sure there’s enough oil and tomato juice to envelop the grains nicely. Season with pepper and salt to taste. I also add some chopped black olives for some extra salty texture. Present it in a beautiful bowl and serve it warm as part of a lunch or Mediterranean dinner, it’s also a perfect picnic dish.
Bon appétit from the Mirabeau kitchen!