April 25, 2015

Barley & Tomato Risotto with Marinated Cheese

As you can see, I'm still very much enjoying the Jerusalem cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi. This is, in fact, one of the recipes that leaped out at me while I was still leafing through the book in the store, so it's no surprise that it should make it onto the table as one of the first few recipes tried. We had this with the Kofta B'siniyah from the previous post on the first day, but the leftovers were reheated on their own for a nice vegetarian dinner with a green and leafy side salad to add a bit of fresh crunch.

Barley is a very hearty grain, which is to say that it is quite filling, and it usually takes about 40 minutes to cook (as does risotto, generally). It is not a true risotto, of course, as the liquid is added all at once, but the net effect is very similar.

I decided to use a seasoned Turkish cheese that I can easily get locally in place of the feta, and it went very nicely as a garnish. We had a slightly larger amount of cheese on the leftovers, since it was a main course at that point. It also meant that I could leave out the caraway from the original marinated cheese recipe, which I felt would be too strong for my tastes.

As an editorial comment, I think it could use much less passata next time - maybe 100 ml tops, but I've written the recipe here as we made it, with 300 ml. In that case, with less liquid going in, I would definitely keep an eye on the cooking process to make sure it didn't burn (and might give an extra 100 ml water at the start).

Barley & Tomato Risotto with Marinated Cheese

Adapted from Jerusalem

Serves 4

200 grams pearl barley
30 grams butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 stalks celery, finely diced
2 small shallots, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaf (or a few sprigs of fresh)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
4 wide strips lime rind (the original calls for lemon)
1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
400 grams diced tomatoes
700 ml vegetables stock or broth
300 ml passata
200 grams seasoned feta-type cheese, crumbled
fresh oregano leaves (optional)

Rinse the barley well, and drain thoroughly.

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, melt the butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil together over medium heat until hot. Add the celery, shallots, and garlic, and sauté until tender. Add the barley and stir about well until the barley grains are glistening, and then add the rest of the ingredients, except the cheese, the fresh oregano leaves, and the remaining olive oil. Everything else, though, in the pot.

Bring it up to a gentle simmer, lower the heat, and cook for 40 - 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid is mostly absorbed except for a bit of sauciness, and the barley is tender.

While the barley is cooking, add the remaining olive oil to the cheese, and stir gently to combine.

Serve it up in a shallow bowl with a dollop of cheese (with the oil!) on top, and finish with a few fresh oregano leaves if you are using them.

Don't remove the citrus rind before serving - try to get one into each bowl. After the long cooking time, they become tender, aromatic, and delicious.

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