One of the many promises I made to myself this year was to cook with as many different ingredients that I could lay my hands on. Explore every possible corner of the food chart. It is very easy to get stuck in a rut, pasta every night or a pilaf for a weekend lunch, weekend after weekend. Before you know it, you have some amazing ingredients in the pantry collecting dust and mites, whereas your body becomes slave to an ingredient that no longer excites it. I wasn't getting stuck in that rut, but coming awfully close to it on numerous occasions.
To get over the initial mental block of trying something new because it was either going to take too long or it was just easier to cook what I already knew by rote, I devised a little game. I made little fold up notes of ingredients in the pantry and fridge and put them in a box. Then I got to pick, yayyy! Kind of like a lucky dip. The only rule was that I would have to cook what came up. No takesie backsies! This was a game Nick and I devised many years ago to start watching a lot of variety from our amazing movie collection when we felt we were watching Asian horrors or comedies all the time.
One of the first notes that I picked from the box was burghul. With my core ingredient decided, I browsed through some cookbooks and realised that I had all the ingredients I would need to make a big bowl of tabouli. This entire exercise took me a maximum of 5 minutes. I went to my garden and picked loads of fresh parsley. Another 20 minutes later, I was tossing around a bowl of gorgeous smelling tabouli for our dinner. The next challenge was to cook something that went well with it. So I quickly made some meatballs and warmed some pita bread to roll it all up with our favourite sauces.
Preparation Time - 20 minutes
1/2 cup fine cracked wheat (burghul)
3/4 cup water
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
3/4 cup chopped mint
12 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
sea salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper
Place burghul in a bowl and cover with water. Allow to stand for 15 minutes until water is completely absorbed.
Place burghul, parsley, mint, tomato, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss to combine.
Serve as a salad or side dish with pita bread and hummus, meatballs, falafel or grilled meat.
Once I realised how exciting and not to mention addictive it was to play The Pantry Game, I started doing it more often and before long there was so much more variety at our meal table with very little effort. Do you have any fun system or game you indulge in that makes cooking and exploring ingredients much more fun? I would love to know!