autumnal austerity


several months ago i went through all my kitchen cupboards, clearing away out of date products and making a note of the many things that were duplicated or needed stocking up on.

one of the items which i had a plentiful supply of was farro and the barley that i bought when i couldn’t find farro itself. this wholegrain is perfect autumnal food and i’ve been enjoying experimenting with this. adding a handful to soups and stews in an easy way to use it and last year i tried using it instead of arborio rice in a sausage risotto.

it was to risotto that i returned most recently intrigued by a recipe from ross dobson which called for the barley to be cooked in a stock flavoured with soy sauce.

austere is definitely the right word to describe the resulting dish – barley and carrots are never going to feel luxurious. however, the addition of plenty of parmesan lifted it and created a comforting meal, albeit one that retained its functional feeling.

i’d like to work on this dish further as i think it has greater potential than it is exhibiting. perhaps using a mix of roasted root vegetables and a scattering of goats cheese? or maybe some slow roasted tomatoes and a piece of lamb on the side? i don’t know yet but if you have any ideas you think i should try, let me know.

ross dobson’s roasted carrots with barley risotto (serves 4)

2 tablespoons olive oil

12 baby carrots, ends trimmed (i used normal carrots cut into batons)

2 tablespoons butter

1 sprigs fresh thyme

2 garlic cloves, unpeeled and cut in half

500ml chicken stock (i used vegetable)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

220g barley

1 tablespoon butter

3 heaped tablespoons grated parmesan

salt & pepper

heat the oil in a frying pan until very hot. add the carrots and cook for 8-10 minutes, turning every two minutes, until golden. add the butter, thyme and garlic to the pan with 125ml water and season. cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and cook over a medium heat for15-20 minutes, turning often, until the carrots are tender.

meanwhile, to make the barley risotto, put the stock and soy sauce in a pan with 1 litre of water and bring to the boil. add the barley and cook for 45-50 minutes, stirring often, until the barley is soft but not breaking up. stir in the butter and parmesan and serve with the carrots on top of the risotto.