Over the last few weeks my family’s ‘Meatless Mondays’ have been extended to Tuesdays and sometimes even Sundays. I used yummy, long shelf-life, meat-free goodies from the pantry — all of which make wholesome meals when combined with vegetables from the garden or freezer. 

Barley is one. I love its chewy texture and nutty flavour. It’s packed with fibre, folate, potassium and vitamin B6, and also helps lower blood cholesterol, thus decreasing the risk of heart disease. Economical barley is excellent in soups, stews, salads and breads.

Quinoa is a gluten-free pearly grain and a superb substitute for rice especially as a risotto. Or combine with chopped raw veggies and a low-cal dressing for salads. 
Another great staple is couscous. Although it looks like a grain it’s a type of pasta prepared from ground semolina flour. Moroccan couscous is very fine and cooks quickly. Pearl or Israeli couscous granules are about the size of peppercorns and take longer to cook.

Polenta — a maize that is finely ground into various grades — is usually cooked with water and/or milk to a porridge consistency and makes a super substitute for mashed potatoes. When cold it sets firmly and can be cubed, wedged or sliced then sautéed in olive oil.


Can be served hot or at room temperature.

1 cup pearl barley
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup peeled and diced butterkin or pumpkin
1 each: red and yellow capsicums, seeded and diced
1 medium onion, diced 
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes 
1 teaspoon smoked paprika 
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed 
1/4 cup chopped parsley 
2 tablespoons lemon juice 
100g feta cheese 
toasted pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 200°C. 

Wash the barley and drain. Place in a medium saucepan. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 40 minutes, until the barley is tender.

Meanwhile, place the butterkin, capsicums and onion in a large roasting pan. Dust with the spices and drizzle with the oil. Toss until well coated. Roast until tender about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking.

Drain the barley, season with salt and pepper, and add the garlic, parsley and lemon juice. Add to the roasted veg. Serve topped with the feta cheese and pine nuts. Serves 6.


Delicious. Serve as a main or as a side dish.

1 cup pearl (Israeli) couscous
salt to taste
410g can pear quarters, well drained
2 cups finely shredded spinach
1/2 cup each: lightly toasted walnuts, craisins
1/2-3/4 cup good dressing eg balsamic, ranch, blue cheese
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, goat’s cheese or finely grated tasty cheese

Cook the couscous in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 8-10 minutes, until ‘al dente’. It should not be mushy. Rinse under cold water, drain well and cool in the fridge.

Drain the pears well and cut each pear quarter in half lengthways. 

Place the cold couscous in a large bowl and add the pears, spinach, walnuts and craisins. Toss gently to combine. Season. Serve drizzled with the dressing of your choice and sprinkle with cheese. Serves 4.


Mint Pesto: 1 cup packed mint leaves, chopped
1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon pine nuts or chopped almonds
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Quinoa Risotto: 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, finely diced
1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
4 cups boiling water
390g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons each: butter, lemon juice

Place all the ingredients for the pesto in a blender. Mix for 30 seconds, scrape down the sides then blend again until a smooth paste develops. Place aside.

To prepare the risotto, heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Sauté the shallots for 1 minute. Add the quinoa and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the boiling water, Cover loosely and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender. Drain reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the kidney beans.

Stir in the butter, lemon juice and half the pesto. Mix well. Serve in shallow bowls topped with the remaining pesto. Garnish with shaved parmesan and mint leaves, if preferred. Serves 4.


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