Chopping and Barley Salad With Broccoli, Grilled Peppers and Black Olives


It’s been snowing again but this time we had a rather short date with it. Today I feel spring in the air but  unfortunately that doesn’t help my mood, things are not going my way today, practical things outside my reach I mean, and in addition to that I could easily chop off the arms of someone. In my youth, one day in May I took all the money I had and left for London without having a place to sleep. I loved London and used to go there several times a year but never had I just trusted fate in that way, I realize now and then that I dare more than I think I do. Anyway, after consulting the phonebook, I ended up in a hostel for girls in Kensington. I shared a sad room with two other girls, Janet and Kim, my bed had bedsprings sticking up and I was often woken up by the pain they caused me. But it was cheap, it was safe, it was central and I got two meals a day. Kim was a mousy girl from Birmingham, not a very nice person but that was probably because she was unhappy, but Janet was an exuberant, talkative girl from Llanelli in Wales. I don’t think she was very happy either (who could be living in that room) but she tried to make the best of life anyway which meant going out drinking and meeting men and I tagged along now and then. Anyway, Janet’s mother always threatened her children with choppingtheir arms off,  a phrase that has remained with me and many are the times when I have been grateful that people here don’t  understand Swedish because they might think I actually would chop off my children’s arms! All I chop off are pieces of my own fingers and hands.

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But I wasn’t going to write about my grumpy mood and my past adventures but about something I often make for us to eat. We often eat grains like farro and barley, it is so easy to make something good with them, everything goes and many are the times when I’m saved by a few vegetables and a handful of farro. No that was an exaggeration, you need more than a handful but it sounded good. A favourite is this salad with barley, broccoli, grilled peppers and black olives, they tune in to each other in perfect harmony. Add peperoncino and garlic and you have a winner. Garlic. I need to talk a little about garlic and Italian cooking because it seems to me that a huge part of the world thinks that Italian food is full of garlic but it really isn’t. Most of the time when you use garlic, you only crush the clove slightly and then heat it up in the olive oil you are cooking with. Sometimes you leave it in but if you only want a faint garlic flavour you take it out before you start cooking. There are dishes with lots of garlic or raw garlic but much much less that you think. So when I see jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson cook Italian and crushing clove after clove of garlic into each and every dish, I realize that they haven’t really understood Italian cooking. Remember that-if you want to cook Italian turn to an Italian cookbook, preferably not translated!

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Recipe sketch – Barley salad With Broccoli, Grilled Peppers and Black Olives: Cook the barley until tender but not mushy. While the barley cooks, fry the broccoli in olive oil with peperoncino flakes, a couple of anchovy fillets if you want and a slightly crushed clove of garlic. I use all of the broccoli, I divide the florets into smaller parts, I peel the stalks a bit and slice them and if there are any leaves (hooray!) I throw these into the pan as well. If I am in a hurry, I add a little water to cook it faster but normally I just fry the broccoli on low heat until cooked and preferably a little brown as well, so much tastier. It takes around 15-20 minutes. At the end, add the grilled pepper cut into pieces and the black olives (the best ones are those you buy in oil) and the barley and stir. Taste to season. This dish is good both warm and cold and all year round.