Sometimes I LOVE eating crunchy, raw food with crisp, fresh flavours. And sometimes, when the nights are still a little bit colder, I need a nice, warm foodie-cuddle. That’s when I seek out warm, yummy comfort food. Nothing too heavy, you understand, but just the right balance between naughty and nice to put a big smile on my face.
As I write this post, London is making a slow but steady transition into spring. And, with spinach so in season at the mo’ I just couldn’t think of a better time to make and share this wonderful recipe; my first savoury dish on the blog. Cool! I call it my lovely Spring Pearl Barley and Spinach Risotto, based on a recipe in the amazing River Cottage Veg Everyday Cookbook!
SPRING PEARL BARLEY AND SPINACH RISOTTO (V+) (V) (NF) (ChF)
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
300g pearl barley
125ml of good white wine (traditionally dry is used, but I have used a sweet white and it came out divine)
1 onion, finely sliced (red or white, it doesn’t matter, whatever you'e got at home will do)
Olive oil, rapeseed oil and/or rice bran oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1-2 tsp of dried thyme
1 litre vegetable stock (I used two organic vegetable cubes to obtain this)
2-3 (organic) leeks (about 300g), sliced
150g of organic spinach, roughly chopped
A pinch of salt and pepper to taste
80g of fine beans, chopped in little pieces (optional)
30g of hard grated organic goat’s cheese or organic parmesan cheese (optional – V)
Heat the stock in a saucepan and keep at a low simmer over a very low heat.
In another large saucepan over a medium heat, fry the chopped onion in a splash of rice bran or olive oil, then add the chopped garlic and thyme. Fry until soft (about 5-8 minutes).
Add the pearl barley to the onion, garlic and thyme, stir and combine. After 2-3 minutes add the white wine. Let the pearl barley absorb the wine completely.
Now slowly add the veggie stock to the pearl barley (about ½ cup at any one time), stir gently and wait for the stock to be fully absorbed before adding more stock, just like you’d do with a regular risotto. (For a beautiful and detailed description of how to cook risotto to perfection, please see Hortus Natural Cooking). It should take between 30 - 35 minutes for all the stock to be fully absorbed.
While the pearl barley is cooking away, in a separate pan sweat the leeks in olive or rice bran oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, stirring occasionally until tender. Then add a handful of chopped spinach and beans, stir until the spinach is soft and wilted. Then add the leek, beans and spinach to the pearl barley when all the stock has been absorbed and combine.
If you wish, you can add some grated organic goats cheese or organic parmesan cheese. I don't think the dish needs this (as someone who doesn't consume dairy I'd say that, wouldn't I ;)), but the choice is yours.
Now - Dinner is served. YUM!
Tip 1: Make more and just freeze the left overs!
Tip 2: Replace the fine beans with any other seasonal veg. You can also use kale instead of spinach if you prefer.
Tip 3: This goes really well with a simple green salad ;)