I had definite ‘food slump’ last week, my brain just didn’t want to know what to cook so I ended up leafing through cookbooks in search of inspiration. At some point I came upon a recipe for barley risotto with feta which was interesting on two fronts. One being that I had piece of locally produced ‘Greek’ style goats cheese in the fridge and the other that barley grows here in Ireland and therefore hits the sustainable list.
However between reading and making the dish I found I couldn’t remember where I’d seen the recipe. I checked through several books until I figured i’d better just get the dinner on the go or we wouldn’t be getting any. I free styled the recipe but one detail which I thought that I had remembered was the cooking time – 20 minutes – which I had obviously got very wrong as the barley took a good hour to become nicely nutty and toothsome. In fact if I had thought about it all I would have realised that barley is not a fast cooker but luckily hunger is the best sauce and when the risotto was ready it was eaten with gusto. Just have the crossword handy to occupy yourself whilst loitering and stirring.
Tomato, Fennel and Barley Risotto
1 large onion
1 bulb fennel
25mls olive oil
300g pearled barley
1 glass white wine
300mls tomato passata
1.2litre stock (approx)
200g local goats cheese or feta
rocket or basil pesto to serve
Peel and chop the onion finely. Heat a medium saucepan, add 25g butter, the olive oil and chopped onion, Cook on a medium heat.
Cut the fennel in half lengthwise then slice thinly lengthwise. Add the fennel to the onions, sprinkle a little salt and stir well.
Cook so that the onions and fennel are sizzling nicely without browning until they melt down, 10-15 minutes.
Add the pearled barley and stir well until well mixed then add a glass of wine. Allow the wine to bubble up and reduce then stir in the passata. Bring everything to a bubble then begin to add roughly one fifth of vegetable stock at a time, stirring very 5 minutes and adding more stock as needed to keep it cooking and from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Taste when the stock is used up and if the risotto is not ready add a little water and continue cooking.
Dice the remaining 50g butter and dice the goats cheese.
When the risotto is to your liking take off the heat and beat in the butter. Beat being the operative word as this will make the risotto creamy. Stir three quarters of the goats cheese through. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if needed,
Spoon into shallow bowls, top with the remaining cheese and drizzle over a little pesto.