Friday Food: Ottolenghi Barley Risotto

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
200g passata
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
Black pepper
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

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15 thoughts on “Friday Food: Ottolenghi Barley Risotto

  1. Timely – risotto is my new thing! I always wrote it off because I figured you needed cheese, but actually the arborio rice is creamy on its own, so most recipes are vegan-able and still tasty. I could do this without the feta (admittedly not as fun but still!) for sure.

    Love Yottam thingy (note: two ts in Yotto! there may be a typo in my next FF article, Mrs C-S)


    • a typo for a typo will make the whole world blind and apathetic to poor spelling Pen! and this is actually just as good without the feta – barley goes really creamy too. I’ll make it for you guyses when you come to London x

  2. That looks really good! I make risotto all the time but never with barley, I’m going to give it a go this weekend!

  3. Oooh looks lush! We’re currently trying to make an effort to have a certain number of veggie days at home to keep us a bit healthier…that’s def. going on the list!

    My fav ‘healthy’ comfort food is chickpea and spinch curry. One of my friends is Gujrati and it was her family receipe which I’ve adapted slightly (added spinach, swapped ghee for olive oil etc).

  4. Ok this looks amazing, and right up my street. But if I’m going to make it at home I’m going to have to incorporate some kind of meat in order for my Neanderthal boyfriend to eat it. What would you suggest? Chicken? A little bit of chorizo??

    • I made this for tea on Sunday and it was totally scummy! I added chopped onions and chorizo when frying off the garlic. I had some left over so we had it again on Monday night, I just sauteed some more chopped onion and chorizo but adding some chopped red pepper and chilli this time and some more passata and added more fresh feta and coriander just before serving.
      Fantastic! am definitely going to add this to my favourite comfort food recipes! Thanks:)

      • yay! so glad you enjoyed, it’s really versatile and still delicious the next day (if it lasts that long 😉 ) xx

  5. either chorizo or chicken would work, and I sometimes use bacon chopped with the garlic at the beginning. xx

  6. Made this last night – it was INCREDIBLE!
    I had the leftovers for lunch AND the boy didn’t even realise it was meat free. A winner all round. Thanks Gemma, this is something I never would have tried but will most def be making it again. and again.

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