Sweet Potato and Pearl Barley Stew

I'm currently digesting the most uh-mazing vegan orange cake ever, which I purchased from my local vegetarian cafe Archie Browns. I sampled it once before when my Mum came to visit. She ordered a slice and I sneaked a bite. O.M.G. Deeeeelicious. Totally and utterly, simply and completely outrageously good. So, it's been on my mind for quite some time now but since we don't go out to eat much these days (if ever really - bring on Londinium!), it's taken me a while to get around to going back and getting a piece for myself.

Now, I'm sitting here, post cake and I'm pleased to say it lived up to the memory and then some. I also made a yummy soy latte to go with - I'm currently obsessed with homemade lattes but I don't want to make a habit of it, as it involves way too much caffeine and soya for it to be a regular feature in my diet. It's been three days on the trot now though, so I fear I may already be addicted - whoopsies!

I definitely needed one yesterday though because I had my first bit of work in a long time, which meant a mega early start - ugh:( It might be a month since my last filming job but at least yesterday was a short one and as I was only an extra, I had very little to do. You might be to amused to know I was playing one of the church congregation and we had to sing 'All Things Bright and Beautiful', which was mildly painful, as we didn't get to rehearse it beforehand. I think ramshackle describes it best.

Just as I was leaving my agent called me to one side to say she wanted me to meet the director as there was a role she thought I would be ideal for - I've heard that before! I've learnt by now to never get my hopes up with regards to these things - par for the course really - but I happily met the director anyway. Even though I'm 30, I usually get put forward for much younger roles and in this case the character was supposed to be around twenty - I can hear you lolling from here!

Needless to say I didn't get the part (like I said, par for the course) but I think he was surprised to discover I was 30. I think that's the problem I've always had within this industry. Casting directors and directors alike just don't know what to do with me. You see, generally actors are immediately pigeonholed and if you can't be (me!) then it becomes very difficult to get work - I'm neither leading lady nor the best friend. See? Difficult.

Anyway, it just confirmed for me that I am totally doing the right thing by changing direction. Right now, I am so excited about our future and the prospect of having a secure income and a creative, fulfilling job is beyond wonderful.

As I was leaving the director told me they might have a role for me on another film in the New Year. I told him I'd be in London by then and working in a different industry to which he said, 'that's a shame'. I think he was stunned my response was 'nah, it really isn't', and then I smiled and left. To be more accurate, I may have skipped off:)

sweet potato and pearl barley stew

1 onion

2 carrots

1/2 head cabbage

2 large sweet potatoes

1 cup pearl barley

4 cloves garlic

6 sprigs thyme

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp oregano

1 heaped tsp vegan vegetable bouillon

1 tbsp red wine vinegar (vegan)

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp oil

salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan.

Roughly cut the onion into largish pieces. Add the onion to the pan, dried herbs, season, stir and cover.

Mince the garlic cloves, take the leaves off the thyme stalks and finely chop. Add to the pan along with the sugar, stir and allow to soften on a medium heat without covering for several minutes ensuring to stir often.

Pour in the red wine vinegar and turn the heat up slightly to let it cook off.

Peel the carrot and cut into large chunks. Add to pan with the freshly chopped thyme and salt & pepper. Cover, turn down heat and allow to soften for five to ten minutes.

Roughly chop the cabbage and add to pan. When it softens and begins to wilt add the pearl barley, sprinkle in the vegetable bouillon and completely cover with cold water. Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook for an full hour, topping up with water if it becomes to dry - the pearly barley will rapidly absorb any water you add.

Peel and chop the sweet potato into large pieces.

In the final twenty minutes of cooking add the sweet potato, season generously and cook until soft - careful not to overcook the sweet potato, as you want it to retain bite and texture.

Season and serve.



veganAine Carlin