Orzotto, with marrowfat peas and smoked bacon

Orzotto with marrowfat peas and smoked bacon

Update: Since making this orzotto with marrowfat peas and crispy bacon, and orther orzotti, I’ve realised it’s much quicker to cook them if the barley is well rinsed before soaking overnight in plenty of cold water. Simply drain and cook the orzotto as before. Should take at least 20 minutes less cooking time.

Apparently we’re heading into yet another winter this weekend. I’m hoping not as I’m already used to early spring. As I’m not craving particular foods as I would normally during spring & summer I’m still on a theme of winter, in a sense. Although, I’m looking forward to the asparagus season. And, especially wild sorrel – if I can get my hands on some. It’s delicious as a thin puréed soup.

Anyway, as I’ve started to spring clean I’m also using up dried food stuff that I’d bought during the last 5 or so months. Because of the latter I’m using pearl barley in yet another orzotto with marrowfat peas. I guess this would be great with fresh or frozen peas, with a hint of lime or lemon and lots of fresh basil leaves a little further into March. Yet, the subtle taste of the marrowfat peas is perfect for this during colder nights. As for herbs I’d go with parsley for this version and your favourite Parmesan. Like the previous orzotto this takes about 30 minutes to cook (if the barley has been soaked overnight, if not it’ll take up to 50), leaving lots of time to prep the other veg and stuff. I’m cooking everything separately as it’s just so easy to prepare, cook and combine all at the end of cooking time. This, I think, would team up nicely with ripe pears, a favourite cheese and crispy bread. Oh, and a small handful of organic pumpkin seeds per person, for that much needed crunch.

Problem with my marrowfat peas, though. On their pack it reads: Bring to a boil with a teaspoon of Bicarb of soda, boil for 10 minutes and leave to stand for 2 hours. With fresh water bring back to a boil with another tsp of Bicarb, then simmer for 20 minutes. Sounds easy enough. I soaked mine overnight to avoid the standing part, added fresh water and the Bicarb, brought that to a boil and simmered for a few minutes. Only to find that practically all of their shells were floating on the surface. So, I spent about 10 minutes skimming those off the surface, replenished the water, added more Bicarb and brought them back to a boil again. Only for the damn peas to disappear! I’m not kidding. I was left with literally only 1 pea and lots more shells. And, unfortunately, the first time I used a lid and the foamy green water boiled over and unto my hob. Phew, the last time I try to follow instructions. For this orzotto I did what I normally do and soaked more overnight, brought those to a boil, without any Bicarb or salt, for 10 minutes and simmered for about 15 – 20. And even with the Bicarb mine are never very green. Maybe it’s the product I’m using. Perhaps I should buy a differing brand. Hell, who knows. Might be easier just to buy a can!

Orzotto, with marrowfat peas and smoked bacon

  • Servings: 2 or 4 as a starter
  • Print


  • 100g (3.52 oz) x marrowfat peas, soaked overnight
  • olive oil
  • 100g (3.52 oz) x pearl barley, rinsed and soaked overnight
  • 500ml (1.05 pt US Liq) x water
  • 1 x chicken stock cube (I’ve used organic)
  • 2 x dried bay leaves, ripped
  • 2 x medium onions, about 200g (7.05 oz), chopped
  • 2 x medium garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 x teaspoon cayenne pepper OR 1/4 x teaspoon red pepper flakes, less or more to personal taste
  • 150ml (0.317 pt US Liq) x single/light cream
  • 2 x bacon rashers per person, either streaky or back – I preferred smoked with this
  • fresh parsley – to serve
  • freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano) or Grana Padano – to serve
  • pumpkin seeds, small handful per person – to serve

Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.


  • Soak the marrowfat peas in plenty of cold water overnight. Rinse well and add them to a large saucepan with lots of cold water. Bring to a boil on electric heat No 4 (out of 6) and boil for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to No 2, put on a lid and simmer until cooked – about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • Either use a large heavy-based saucepan or wide pan with enough oil to cover its base. Put on heat No 2 whilst rinsing the barley. Add to the pan, stir through a little and cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Prep the stock with the bay leaves and set aside.
  • Start to add some of the stock and the bay leaves to the barley, upping the heat to No 3 or 4 (if using the latter stay with the pan) and allow nearly all of the stock to be absorbed before adding more. Continue like this for about half the stock, then start adding cream and stock together.
  • Prep the onions and add them to a small heavy-based saucepan or pan with enough oil to cover its base. Put on heat No 2 and stir through occasionally. After about 20 minutes lower heat to No 1 and add the garlic. Continue to cook on low heat until the onions are nicely golden. When that stage is reached take off heat, push some onions to the side and sprinkle over the cayenne pepper, adding a little more oil if necessary. The heat of the pan will allow the cayenne pepper to infuse without burning.
  • Either pan-fry or grill the bacon until nice and crispy.
  • Reheat the peas in enough cold water to cover them. Once they’re hot take off heat and set aside.
  • When the barley is cooked, and the only way to test this is by biting on a grain to determine how hard or soft the bite is, start to add the other ingredients. Allow everything to heat through, with a lid, for several moments to ensure all of the ingredients are piping hot.
  • Serve with lots of freshly grated cheese, fresh parsley and the pumpkin seeds.

All photographs within (Todas las fotografías dentro de) Feed the Piglet:
All rights reserved (© Todos los derechos reservados) – Copyright © Johnny H Hepburn


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