16 July 2008

Comfort Food

Don't you hate falling sick? I do. But I'm also glad to say that I'm not all that susceptible to colds and flu and fall sick only, thank god, a couple of times a year. But, rather unfortunately too, I fall sick during a break after a long period of stress and hard work. It's like the immune system relaxes just as I start relaxing too.

Last week, having completed my internship, I finally got a chance to wake up late on a weekday and had planned to start a cooking and baking spree and do some blogging. But I just had to come down with an infection. A gum infection. I don't know how it happened, but I woke up on Sunday and it started feeling sore. By the time I checked to see what really was the problem in the evening, there was this large ulceration at the back of my jaw and the pain had spread to my throat. For anyone who had the rather unfortunate experience of a bad wisdom-toothache, you'll know how it's like to not be able to open your mouth big enough to put food in with a spoon.

So by the time Monday came, I was yearning to cook and photograph but not really wanting to eat. Now there's this one thing that I always cook for myself when I fall sick: barley. Yup, pearl barley. I just cook some in lots of water till tender, add some sugar and have that for the whole day. It's almost like a craving for times when I'm unwell. Still, I wanted to tie it in with the strawberry phase that I'm currently in and plain cooked barley didn't seem to accommodate the red berry quite well. A little thinking and a barley and oatmeal porridge was cooking on the stove. The barley added a nice bite to the porridge which I liked (a little ironic since I was down with a gum infection) and topped with strawberries and honey, makes a wholesome breakfast for a gloomy Monday morning. Besides the chewiness of barley, I also like my oatmeal porridge, any porridge for that matter, a little thicker. A little like a pudding I think.

The strawberries I used this time were from Indonesia and I was really quite happy to find them at a Shop & Save outlet. They were really beautiful, I have to say. No bruises at all, lovely leaves and even some remaining petals on the berries! Gorgeously red and in small punnets, which I think is good if you can't finish the very perishable fruits fast enough. At S$2.95 for 1/2 a pound-punnet, it's almost the same price as the US strawberries when they're not on sale. So I put them into my shopping basket to bring home to try. They lasted long for strawberries, I bought them on Thursday night and they remained perfect for 1 whole week. However, I'm sad to report that they were really quite tasteless, if not really tart. Oh well...

Barley and Oatmeal Porridge
(Serves 2 small stomachs)

50g pearl barley
50g rolled oats
2 tbsp cereal mix (not breakfast cereal! i used this but it's optional)
300ml milk

Strawberries, hulled and quartered

- Rinse the barley and cook in a 2 cups of water for 30mins or until tender and the water is almost evaporated. If the water has evaporated before the barley is cooked, add another 1/2 - 1 cup of water.
- When the barley is tender, add in rolled oats, cereal and the milk. Stir and continue cooking until the oats are cooked through, adding more milk if desired.
- Serve warm, topped with strawberries and drizzled with honey.

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