I didn’t think I’d get the chance to post this any time soon, since summer seemed to have arrived and cooking anything more than one’s own skin felt like far too much faff. But then the floods replaced the sunshine and, you know what, this is a perfect not-quite-hot-not-quite-cold one-pot dinner for such inbetween weather.
I first decided to make this for two quite mundane reasons: I had a bag of pearl barley cluttering up a cupboard and, since I was pretty convinced we never really ate it, I wanted to clear the space; second, I had everything, bar passata in the house and a no-shopping recipe is a no-brainer (you can recreate passata quite simply with extra tinned tomatoes; that’s what I did). Don’t be scared by that Ottolenghi name; this is very much a supermarket-friendly, and adaptable recipe (miss out the oregano, for example, if you don’t have it).
Alas, once I tried it, I lost the desired space to a permanent bag of pearl barley but gained a really good #onthelist recipe which suits everyone: omnivore, vegetarian and, if you miss out the butter and feta, vegan. However badly stocked your cupboards are, the shopping list for this is pretty short, the effort and time is equally minimal (unlike an Italian risotto, you don’t need to stir this constantly) but the results are much greater than you’d expect. Finally, if there’s two of you, there will be plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. This is one for all year round.
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
garlic cloves, 4
unsalted butter (swap for another 30ml of olive oil if you want to make it vegan), 30g
olive oil, 90ml
chilli flakes, 1/4 tsp
tinned tomatoes, 400g
vegetable stock, 700ml
caraway seeds, 1 tbsp
salt, 1/2 tsp (the recipe says 1/2 tbsp, but I find that too much)
pearl barley, 200g
celery stalks, 2
thyme sprigs, 4
smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp
lemon, (you just need the zest)
passata, 300ml (or drain another tin of tomatoes, crush the tomatoes and add those but not the liquid)
feta, 300g (omit this bit if you’re veganising it)
fresh oregano leaves, 1 tbsp (optional; I’ve made it with and without)
Pearl barley risotto (adapted from Jerusalem)
1. Rinse the pearl barley well under cold water and leave to drain.
2. Peel and dice the shallots and garlic; dice the celery.
3. Heat the butter (if using) and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the shallot, garlic and celery gently until soft (about 5-8 minutes or so). Stir in the barley, thyme, smoked paprika, 4 thin strips of lemon zest, passata, bay leaf, chilli flakes, tomatoes, stock and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.
4. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring every so often to make sure the risotto does not catch on the bottom of the pan. It is ready when the barley is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
5. Whilst the risotto is cooking, toast the caraway seeds in a dry frying pan for a couple of minutes, or just until you can smell them. Then crush them so that some whole seeds remain. Dice the feta and gently mix with the caraway and the remaining olive oil.
6. As soon as the barley is tender, taste and adjust the seasoning then serve with the marinated feta and its oil and a few oregano leaves, if using.