Last year was a slow one for me blogwise. I took a longer than anticipated break from the world and found a renewed appreciation for cooking and gardening. I was enjoying the silence, not feeling compelled to post about every little thing that I was doing, and enjoying the chance to simply cook and garden without a camera and styling kit on hand at a moment’s notice.
It was in this moment that my friend and fellow blogger, Christina Soong, approached myself and Tash Stewart about participating in a photoshoot for Aspire, a South Australian lifestyle magazine. Superstar that she is, Christina had been commissioned to shoot, style and appear in a piece about food bloggers who hang out together and she wanted us to be part of it. Given that is actually something we do relatively frequently, it sounded like a fab idea. The catch being that I needed to be blogging regularly.
Always supportive of my blog, I suspect Christina had two motives. The first being a genuine opportunity to work together on something great, the second being to get me back blogging. Suffice to say, she succeeded in both of these approaches as I cautiously returned to the world of blogging, with a renewed perspective and some very clear boundaries.
The brief was simple: a picnic on a summer afternoon. We were to each create and style a couple of dishes and then pose with them in a picnic setting. As the event drew closer I fussed over what I would cook, what I would wear and how it would all look. Generally a picnic for me involves sandwiches or bread rolls, maybe a side salad that doesn’t require chilling, and some dips and cheese to round everything out. A bottle of bubbles doesn’t go astray, nor does something sweet – for us it’s usually a block of dark chocolate.
With this in mind I decided to make some Fried Chicken Sandwiches (a labour of love that is well worth the effort), Peach and Raspberry Iced Tea and this simple Summer Grain Salad of barley, greens, goats cheese and summer fruit. Use cherries when they are in season, strawberries when they are not. Some sliced peaches or nectarines would also be delicious.
Despite all the worry, prep and stress, the final result is just lovely and can be seen in this month’s edition of Aspire. Thanks to my wonderful partner Paul for helping out on the day. To Tom and Alison for letting us set up in your gorgeous garden. To Christina for the opportunity, to Amy for making me look amazing, and to Sky for bringing it all together.
- 1 cup Pearl Barley, soaked overnight if possible
- 1 teaspoon stock powder
- 3 cups water
- 3 tablespoons of good-quality olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon of raw sugar
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of cracked black pepper
- To serve:
- 1 punnet of strawberries, tops removed and roughly chopped
- 60g La Casa del Formaggio 100% Goats Milk Cheese
- 1 cup rocket, washed and dried
- ½ bunch fresh dill, basil or chives
- 1-2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- Add barley, stock and water to a large saucepan over a medium-high heat.
- Bring to a boil and simmer for twenty minutes or until cooked (cooking time will depend on whether
- grains were soaked in advance).
- Transfer barley to a container and allow to cool before storing in the fridge.
- Combine olive oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a clean jam jar and shake well. Set aside.
- To serve combine barley, strawberries, cheese, rocket and herbs.
- Pour on the dressing and toss through again to coat.
- Garnish with pine nuts and some extra sprigs of herbs.
For the full range of recipes – including Kangaroo Scotch Eggs and a mind-blowing Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Slice – check out the spread in Aspire, which is available now from your local cafe or restaurant. You can also read it online.