Happy Friday everyone!
We’ve got vegetarians coming for dinner next Thursday, and in honour of them I will be making Yotam Ottolenghi barley, tomato and garlic risotto. This recipe is one tracked down after Mr C-S and I had been out to dinner, to a lovely restaurant, with a big group of people. Some of the guests we knew, some we didn’t. One woman we hadn’t met before (our friends are mostly used to us) ordered a barley risotto, and barely touched it. There it sat, looking creamy and amazing. Mr C-S nudged me in the ribs. I nudged him back. Say it! He said. You say it! I said. Finally, a waitress came and cleared the table. Was there something wrong with your risotto? She asked. No, said the woman, it was gorgeous, I’m just not very hungry. Mr C-S and I watched as the waitress took it back to the kitchen. He sighed. All you had to say to her, he said to me in mournful tones, all you had to say, and then I could have tried it, was ‘are you going to eat that?’
A quick google the following morning turned up the following recipe on the Guardian website. Now that I’ve made it quite a few times, I add in two small onions and am generous with the lemon zest and chilli powder, but I’d suggest sticking pretty closely to the set quantities the first time around.
3 tbsp olive oil, plus an extra trickle at the end
2 whole heads garlic, cloves separated, peeled and quartered
750g fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
½ tsp smoky paprika
⅛ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp picked thyme
4 strips fresh lemon zest
1½ tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
270g pearl barley, well rinsed in cold water and drained
Roughly 200ml water
20g chopped coriander leaves, plus extra to garnish
200g feta, crumbled roughly
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan and sauté the garlic quarters for about two minutes, or until golden. Add the tomatoes, passata, paprika, chilli, thyme, lemon zest, sugar, salt, barley and a ladleful of water; stir and bring the mix to a simmer. Cook over minimal heat for 50-60 minutes, until the barley is tender but still firm to the bite. You’ll need to stir it from time to time, so it doesn’t stick to the pan, and add water occasionally, making sure there is always just enough liquid left in the pot to cook the barley. At the end of the cooking, the mix should be runny enough easily to spoon into bowls.
Once done, remove the pan from the heat, stir in the coriander and some freshly ground black pepper. Add most of the feta, stir gently so the cheese doesn’t break up too much and stays in largish chunks, taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
Spoon into serving bowls, sprinkle with the reserved feta and coriander, and drizzle over a little olive oil.
I promise that this isn’t nearly as fiddly as it may seem, and it will satisfy even the most ardent of meat lovers. Or risotto-made-from-rice lovers, come to that. It’s become a real healthy comfort food in our house. What’s your best comfort food recipe? Share it with us in the comments!
Love, Gemma C-S