Oh! Really, really don’t want to write anything. To the extent I’ve just had a look at how this post could look if I’d only kept the Oh! And, as if the Oh! was trying to tell me something so, too, was buying asparagus that wasn’t grown locally. I just couldn’t wait any longer! Knowing that I should. As the asparagus spears, regardless of looking quite thin and firm looking, just didn’t taste…of anything much. Hardly surprising as they’re imported from Mexico. Not that I’m having a go at Mexican farmers, I hasten to add! It’s the supermarkets storing vegetables for weeks on end. And then having the audacity of selling them as fresh! What a masquerade. Hoodwinked I was! Having written all that, and I ain’t for writing much more, this orzotto (pearl barley risotto) turned out to be one of the best vegetarian versions that I’ve made. Even though my favourite – by far – is still the chicken and bacon!
Asparagus and Leek Orzotto (pearl barley risotto)
PREP: about 30 mins + barley soaked overnight ~ COOK: about 40 mins (longer if barley isn’t soaked overnight) ~ READY IN: less than 1 hour
- 100g (3.527 oz) x pearl barley, well rinsed and soaked overnight in plenty of cold water
- up to 400g (14.11 oz) x leeks, white and pale green, sliced crossways and thoroughly rinsed
- oil, for the leeks
- minimum 1 x 125g (4.409 oz) pack thin (green) asparagus spears, snap each spear and where it gives determines the woody non edible part (root end) and what is edible – use woody parts in stock. Slice some of the edible stalk but keep the tips in tact
- 500ml (16.91 fl oz) x cold water
- 1 x organic vegetable stock cube
- 1 x dried bay leaf
- 1 x broccoli stem/stalk, well trimmed and split in half
- snapped stems x asparagus (only add the tougher/woodier ends to the stock – and do not boil the stock)
- olive oil, for the orzotto
- 2 x parsley stalks/stems, keep leaves for serving
- up to 1/4 x teaspoon cayenne pepper, add less, allow to infuse before adding more to personal taste
- single/light cream + butter + semi-skimmed milk
- mixture x salted nuts, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts and pecans used
- lots of freshly snipped parsley leaves to serve
Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.
- Rinse the barley well under cold running water and soak in plenty of cold water to cover overnight. Following day rinse the barley well before using.
- Put a heavy-based saucepan on electric heat No 3 out of 6. When hot and the leeks are prepared add a glug of oil, sunflower used. Scatter in the leeks, clamp on a lid and cook for 15 minutes, stirring through if necessary. After that time remove the lid just slightly and stir through more often. The leeks should be nicely soft within about 30 minutes, and don’t need to be caramelised. Take off heat.
- Prepare the stock on heat No 3 with the water, stock cube, bay leaf, broccoli stalk, parsley stems and the woody ends of the asparagus – stock must not boil as otherwise there won’t be any flavour of the asparagus! All that’s needed is for the stock cube to dissolve.
- Using a large heavy-based pan put on heat No 3 or 4. When hot pour in enough olive oil to coat its base. Add the rinsed barley and stir through often to get the grains evenly coated in oil. When beginning to catch a little, or turn colour (make sure they don’t turn brown) slightly start to add the stock a ladleful at a time, along with the bay leaf, parsley stems and broccoli pieces. The heat can be increased to No 4, as long as you stay with the pan! Stir through often making sure all of the grains are submerged. When almost all of the stock has been absorbed add another, and keep repeating this for about 20 minutes, reducing heat if necessary. After that time check a grain to test how well the barley is cooking. Continue to add more stock, start to add some single/light cream/butter and semi-skimmed milk (if less cream is wanted) and once that’s been absorbed test again to see if the barley is cooked. It should still have a bite to it, unlike risotto rice. But shouldn’t be chewy, especially if the barley was soaked overnight.
- Put the pan with the leeks back on heat, adding a little more oil if necessary. Spread them to the sides and add the sliced stalks of the asparagus, along with the tips but keeping those on top. If the asparagus is quite thin they only need about 5 minutes to cook through so keep them on low heat, with the lid on but slightly askew.
- Once the barley is cooked remove the bay leaf and broccoli pieces, discarding those. Sprinkle over the cayenne, using less and allowing that to infuse before adding more. If using salted nuts, like I did, then refrain from seasoning at this stage. Add the leeks and asparagus and stir through, keeping some of the asparagus tips for the top when serving.
All photographs within (Todas las fotografías dentro de) Kitschnflavours:
All rights reserved (© Todos los derechos reservados) – Copyright © Johnny H Hepburn