My love affair with pearl barley continues. I have made my 'Sydney salad' many times, playing around with the vegies and spices. Now I've tried this chewy, filling grain in a different way - in a risotto. Or should that be a barlotto?
It's made exactly the same way as a traditional risotto, but turns out much chunkier and chewier, more earthy than elegant. Pearl barley has guts. This chunky-chewiness is perfect for a hearty winter-in-Hobart lunch.
But I have to admit, what really made this big pot come alive was using tomatoes retrieved from my freezer. The label said 'roast tomatoes with lemon thyme, March 2015' - was it really only three months ago that I was making magic with my home-grown tomatoes? Because magic is what this frozen package was: deep ruby-red wedges and slivers of garlic, freckled with many herb leaves. All swimming in a rosy-oily liquid that I knew would be bursting with the flavours of summer.
And so it was. While the pearl barley in this risotto says winter, the tomatoes and tang of the lemon thyme (and some extra lemon zest) says - sings - of sunshine and summer. This is filling, but not stodgy. I loved it so much that after I took this photo, I ate the risotto (the shredded ribbons of silverbeet were the perfect accompaniment) then licked the plate - I wasn't going to waste any of that flavour.
Adapted from a Woman's Weekly recipe.
- In a large heavy casserole pot, sauté in some olive oil one finely chopped onion, some chopped or crushed garlic cloves (to your flavour) and half a red capsicum, finely chopped. Cook until soft but not coloured; I am reminded of reading somewhere that to cook onions like this should take a good ten minutes of patience; any recipe that states any time less is not worth proceeding with!
- At this stage, the recipe specified also cooking in 1 tbspn finely chopped rosemary. I omitted this because of the herbs in my frozen/roasted tomatoes, but I can envisage that rosemary, lemon thyme or marjoram/oregano would be delicious flavours and would be necessary if you were using tinned tomatoes.
- Once this is all soft and lovely, add 1 cup pearl barley and stir for a couple of minutes until well coated.
- Now for the stock and the tomatoes. The recipe specified 5 cups vegie stock, a 400gm tin of chopped tomato, and 1 cup of passata. Because I had my own produce, I used 1 cup of 'roast tomato pan juices' saved from some summer cooking, and almost 1 kilo of my frozen roasted tomatoes, which had a lot of oily juices. I only needed a little slurp of boiling water towards the end of the cooking.
- So, add your liquid and tomatoes, a good zesting of lemon, and bring to the boil. Then reduce to a gentle glooping simmer and cook until barley is cooked; around 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to check that the barley doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Serve with some dark silverbeet for a nice contrast.