In this week’s #KitchenQuestions feature, Barbora Ormerod of The Devilled Egg tackles three questions posed by FOODLOVER readers…scroll down to find out how you can have your questions answered – and win prizes!
1. I’ve seen a few recipes recently that use wheat berries, but what are they and where can I find them? (Emma from Dorchester)
A ‘wheat berry’ is just a whole wheat kernel (minus the husk). Technically these grains are a type of fruit, so calling them berries actually isn’t just a gimmick.
Generally, the wheat in our diet comes from white flour, which is processed for longer shelf life. This process removes the bran and germ, which contain most of the minerals, protein, fibre, vitamins and flavour. Wheat berries still have the bran and germ intact and therefore offer a much better nutrient-to-volume ratio. It’s the essence of the ‘whole food’ argument.
They require soaking overnight and take nearly an hour to cook, but should be well worth it. Apart from their nutritional value, wheat berries have a deep nutty flavour, great crunchy texture and work well added to salads, breads or even substituted for rice in a risotto-style dish. They will not be easy to find in supermarkets, but you should have more luck in health food shops and online.
If it’s primarily the nutritional aspect you’re interested in, it’s worth noting that wholemeal flour is milled from whole wheat berries and has the same overall properties.
2. I love making creamy sauces to have with pasta and meat, but I’m trying to be good and lose some weight…! Is there any way I can still enjoy creamy sauces but without them being so bad for me?! (Fran from Plymouth)
You’re not alone. Fat is an excellent way to elevate a dish, but there are ways to keep overall fat content down. Instead of creamy sauces, try using crème fraîche, which still brings plenty of richness plus a lovely zing. Add lots of chopped fresh herbs and lemon zest to really make it pop, or include smoked salmon or cooked chorizo for a seriously delicious treat.
Fortunately fat isn’t the way only way to add creaminess. Try puréeing vegetables for a thick, tasty and substantial sauce, simmering them in stock and spices until soft, then blend with plenty of seasoning. Things like cauliflower, sweet potato, avocado and butter beans have loads of creaminess locked up inside them. And if it’s not quite enough, you can always add a little cheese!
3. In a couple of weeks, I’m cooking for 18 people for a family gathering, and I have no idea what to make! Do you have any suggestions for a three course meal where I can make the majority in advance, so I can spend time with them and not just stay in the kitchen all night? (Sandra from Exeter)
Prepping in advance is one of the best tools in the domestic kitchen. I also completely agree with your position on this – why should the host miss all the fun?
For the starter I would suggest a thick, delicious soup, and at this time of year Jerusalem artichokes are perfect. Simmer with stock, onions etc. before blending, and don’t be timid with seasoning (particularly salt). Your starter should make a bold first impression.
For 18 people I’d consider a shared/buffet service, where only the main and one or two sides need be served hot. Slow roasts work well, plus easy and tasty options like roast sweet potatoes (crumble some feta over before service, with coriander and pomegranate seeds) and maybe an old-school pasta bake (made in advance with pancetta, mushrooms and truffle oil, then sprinkled with Gruyère and reheated in the oven for service). Cold sides are even easier: spelt salad with pesto and roasted root veg, plus a fresh vegetable salad of tomatoes, basil and black olives.
Pavlova is easy to make but still makes for quite an impressive dessert. It’s also very scaleable, although some people might feel more comfortable making 18 individual meringues. Either way, be generous with the whipped cream (flavoured with vanilla or something boozy!) and seasonal fruit. Other options include baked, stuffed apples and large tray bakes (like brownies, rocky road or gingerbread) served with ice cream. These are all pretty easy, but if you’re feeling very adventurous you could make all three. The key, as you’ve sussed, is to do as much as possible in advance.
Every week Barbora will take reader’s questions and answers will be posted via our website on Fridays. Submit your questions via Twitter, Facebook, email or postcard, with some answers even being highlighted in the magazine. All questions received will be in with a chance of winning a year’s subscription to the magazine plus a 6 month subscription to The Devilled Egg Online, Barbora’s digital cookery school.
Barbora may not be able to answer every question each week, but just resubmit questions and she’ll get to as many as she can! To have your #KitchenQuestions answered, contact us in one of the following ways:
Twitter: @FOODLOVERmag, using hashtag #KitchenQuestions
Facebook: Westcountry FOODLOVER, using hashtag #KitchenQuestions
Email: email@example.com (subject line: Kitchen Questions)
Postcard: Kitchen Questions, Marralomeda, Kingweston Road, Charlton Mackrell, Somerset, TA11 6AH
To find out more about Barbora and her new all digital cookery school see thedevilledegg.com