Vegetarian Friday! Barley, Tomato and Garlic Risotto by Yotam Ottolenghi

Vegetarian Friday! 
Barley, Tomato and Garlic Risotto 
by 
Yotam Ottolenghi
 Friday 5th August 2011~ Grasmere Rush Bearing, England
Vendredi 5 Août 2011~ St Abel
Vegetarian Friday ~ now that is just fine for me, but Malcolm my husband likes his meat, so I made him some old fashioned liver and onions and that kept him happy whilst I tucked into the amazing barley risotto by Yotam Ottolenghi, a recipe that I found on the website for the Guardian newspaper, my favourite broadsheet read, or should I say internet read whilst I am in France!
 This recipe is simply outstanding ~ I was first introduced to it by a vegetarian friend who cooked this when we went around to her house for dinner one evening, and I was blown away with the subtle and yet robust simplicity of it ~ I mean using pearl barley for risotto was nothing short of a miracle, as it achieved the same silky consistency as arborio rice without the constant stirring and adding of liquid. You DO need to add a wee bit of liquid as it cooks and you do need to stir it, but not constantly and I left it for about 10 minutes in between stirs without any adverse effects. Anyway, I asked her for the recipe and hot footed it back home where I found the recipe here: Recipe for Barley, Tomato and Garlic Risotto by Yotam Ottolenghi
 I DID tweak the recipe just a little, not too much as it was great the way it was, but I added the juice of the lemon to the water that was added as it was cooking, and also I added a couple more strips of lemon peel too…….I hope Yotam Ottolenghi doesn’t mind too much! Other than that, I made it exactly as he posted it on the Guardian website. I was able to use my recent purchase of smoked paprika (Pimenton) from Spain, and that really is a wonderful element of the dish, that and the other layers of flavours ~ garlic, coriander/cilantro, fresh thyme and the feta cheese of course. It is quite simple, but like most of Yotam’s recipes, the combination of flavours and textures is very modern and inventive, and it always makes me wonder why I hadn’t thought of it before…….plus, I love pearl barley and it is so refreshing to be able to use it in a recipe other than Irish Stew or Scotch Broth, and in summer too! 
I ate a huge bowl for my lunch, whilst Malcolm happily munched his way through the liver and onion casserole I had made for him, I was happy and so was he ~ result!  I may have added a teensy weensy bit more chilli, but that is my downfall, SPICE! This would make a GREAT informal luncheon dish throughout the summer and I am sure that meat eaters would enjoy it too, just not Malcolm! I can also see this being very useful on a summer buffet table and I am sure that it will be just as divine when it is cold ~ think tabbouleh or couscous salad but with barley instead. You can get the recipe from the website of course, but I am copying the recipe here for ease of access, for myself as well as you……and with my small amendments!

Yotam Ottolenghi’s 

Barley, Tomato and Garlic Risotto

(Serves 4)
Ingredients: 

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 
6 to 8 strips fresh lemon zest
1½ tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
270g pearl barley, well rinsed in cold water and drained
Roughly 200ml water + the juice of one lemon
20g chopped coriander leaves, plus extra to garnish
Black pepper
200g feta, crumbled roughly
Method:
 
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 with the lemon juice 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.
Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi in London.
I really hope you enjoy this risotto as much as I did, I am testing a few more of Yotam’s recipes over the next month, so look out for my reviews here! See you soon, and TGIF!
Karen

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