Wednesday 15 May 2013

Pearl Barley Risotto - delish

I had 'simple, nutritious, but untried recipe' on my mind when I thumbed through my recipe books for ideas for a one pot Vegetarian dish that would appeal to a (nearly) seven year old and, as the three adults were eating at different sitting times, would be ok to reheat later in the evening. 
I grabbed my new recipe book Jerusalem, it is a visual feast in itself and this recipe really appealed to me, it ticked all the boxes and I had everything I needed in my pantry and fridge (believe it or not). Plus - I was feeling a little adventurous and took the chance that it would be ok cooked in a slow cooker (which meant I could turn it on and basically forget about it and get on with reading my new book). 
If you decide to use your slow cooker for this recipe, you may need to reduce the stock (I thought it looked a bit too sloppy so removed about 100ml). Using my slow cooker guidelines for cooking pulses I cooked the dish on high for about 4 hours, tested the barley, then lowered the temperature to low for the last 2 hours. (Every slow cooker is a little different so it would pay to check accordingly). It was declared delicious (even after the late comer warmed it through in the microwave). And by the way - the little one loved it - not a speck left on her plate. 
Note: It can be easily adapted as a Vegan dish, leaving out the butter and using toasted Pumpkin or Pine nuts for garnish instead of feta cheese.
I used baked cauliflower as a side dish. Just lightly spray a layer of raw cauliflower 'florets' in a roasting dish lined with baking paper and bake at a high temperature until lightly browned - so much tastier than boiled or steamed cauliflower and it complements this dish well. To accommodate those in  need of a bit more protein, I added some cubed stir fried chicken.
Overall a simple, nutritious, tasty combination of flavours.
As an aside I find it amusing to see that kitchen enamelware is making a bit of a comeback. I own some old relics from childhood family camping days and as you can see some of my pieces are a bit battered. They are still used on a regular basis. I just love them! 
The risotto captured with the last bit of evening light
Barley Risotto with Marinated Feta - from Jerusalem – Ottolenghi & Tamimi Pub 2012
200g pearl barley
30g unsalted butter
90ml olive oil
2 small celery stalks, 5mm dice
2 small shallots, 5mm dice
4 garlic cloves – 2mm dice
4 fresh thyme sprigs
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
4 strips of lemon rind
¼ tsp chilli flakes
400g tin chopped tomatoes
700ml vegetable stock
300ml passata
1tbsp caraway seeds
300g feta, broken roughly into 2 cm pieces
1tbsp fresh oregano leaves
Rinse the pearl barley under cold water and leave to drain.
Melt the butter and 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a very large frying pan and cook the celery, shallot & garlic on a gentle heat for 5 mins until soft. Add the barley, thyme, paprika, bay leaf, lemon rind, chilli flakes, tomatoes, stock, passata and ½ tbsp salt. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a very gentle simmer and cook for 45 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure the risotto does not catch on the bottom of the pan. When ready, the barley should be tender and most of the liquid absorbed.
Meanwhile toast the caraway seeds in a dry pan for a couple of minutes. Then lightly crush them so that some whole seeds remain. Add them to the feta with the remaining olive oil and gently mix to combine.
Once the risotto is ready, check the seasoning and then divide between four shallow bowls. Top each with the feta mix and a sprinkling of oregano leaves.
The risotto with chicken and baked cauliflower