I trust the creative process is different for many people, but for me it's a pretty haphazard and frenzied ordeal. While I might come off as very Type A because I work very very hard, and because - let's be honest - it's more socially acceptable, my mind is hardly organized or linear in any capacity (and the disorganization of my private environment mirrors this). People often ask me what I have planned for future posts, and with some exceptions the answer is usually "absolutely nothing." Once in a while this concerns me, and I wonder what might happen if another idea doesn't come along. Then, I remember that the whole point is just to post what I actually cook, so as long as I'm eating we're all good. While for brief moments I might lose faith in the fact that ideas will come, they always do.
In this case, to some extent, everyone is having the same idea - pumpkin. I'm sure on some subliminal level I choose to feature pumpkin now because it's really been out there in the food blogosphere. I've also been meaning to make one my absolute favorite desserts, kheer, or a Indian-spiced rice pudding. So maybe all that was wafting around in my brain and it all clicked on Sunday when I was writing up the last post for coconut curry barley risotto. Surely the sweet notes of the coconut curry activated some memory of kheer and expressed itself in fall flavors of pumpkin and chai. Whatever, it happened, and it's good.
No doubt this recipe can be modified for more traditional palates (because this one is a pretty strong dose of Eastern spice). You can certainly play with the spice combination to go with a more "pumpkin pie" result, or just tone down the chai to something more similar to a pumpkin chai latte by eliminating the garam masala (since it has curry). If you aren't vegan, using cream instead of coconut milk would definitely get a more chai latte effect. Or, leave out the pumpkin and just go for a straight up chai pudding. If rice suits you more than barley, so be it. Experiment and see what happens.
Ingredients (makes 4 servings):
- 1 cup pearled barley
- 2 cups light coconut milk
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 2-3 tbsp. honey
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. garam masala spice (depending on how intense you want it)
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- pinch of allspice
- 1 star anise pod
- 4 cardamom pods
- 4 whole cloves
For a more traditional fall flavor (like pumpkin pie), leave out the garam masala, coriander, anise, and cardamom.
In a large bowl or pot, whisk together the coconut milk and spices (leaving a few tablespoons of coconut milk aside for later).
Over medium heat, bring spiced coconut milk to a simmer on the stove top. Add the barley and continue to simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. The coconut milk will begin to thicken, so add a the additional coconut milk in small parts to keep it moist until the barley is fully cooked.
When just about done to al dente and the thickness you want, remove the anise, cardmom pods, and cloves. Fold in the pumpkin, honey, almonds, and raisins.