I wanted to do a recipe a day during Advent for many reasons: A way to honour my mum’s devotion to her faith, a way to share knowledge on a variety of culinary topics and finally thinking of the idea of Advent itself, a way to look at the past to prepare for a better future. Irrespective of any religious connection, everyone can relate to the idea of creating a better future for yourself, your family, your friends and strangers around you.
To create a better future, one must understand all of their past and make it a part of them. Creation, oftentimes, is a manifestation of collective understanding. When we completely understand ourselves as a part of the world around us, we grow.
In my culinary history, our family had a simple comfort food dish. We just called it “meatballs and rice.” It was a simple combination of meatballs flavoured with packaged onion soup mix, browned, then subsequently cooked with more onion soup mix and rice.
As I’ve grown more towards using more local products, no one in Alberta grows conventional rice (I know a wild rice grower, but it wouldn’t quite work for this recipe), but I know my favourite grain farmer, Gold Forest Grains, grows barley. And in the spirit of Advent, by learning from my past, both distant and immediate, I decided to do a Sausage Meatball and Barley dish.
Roasted Pepper and Chilli Sausage with Barley.
For the meatballs:
1 Sunshine Organic Farm large egg
1 cup fresh whole wheat breadcrumbs
In a medium bowl, combine the sausage meat and egg. Gradually work in the breadcrumbs until well combined. Form into walnut-sized meatballs and set aside.
For the savoury barley:
1 tsp Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil
1 large Riverbend Gardens yellow onion, chopped (about 4 cups)
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups celery, chopped
1 cup Peas On Earth Organic Farm parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 cups Gold Forest Grains pearl barley
6 cups water
2 tsp salt
In a large pot or Dutch oven, sauté the onions in oil over medium high heat. As the onions start to soften and brown, gradually reduce the heat and stir, scraping the bottom of the pot as the onions stick slightly (if the browning cannot be scraped up readily, add a few tablespoons of water and scrape it up completely). Continue to sauté, caramelizing the onion over the course of about 30 minutes. Add the celery and parsnips and sauté for a further 5-7 minutes to soften the vegetables slightly.
In a large sauté pan, brown the sausage meatballs over medium heat until browned on all sides. Add the browned meatballs to the large pot with the sautéed and caramelized vegetables. Add the barley, water and salt and bring to a boil. Cover the pot tightly, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 45 minutes. Serve in bowls. Serves 4-6.