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So I’m lagging behind on updating what we’ve been eating on our meat-free month, so I will speedily try and do some catching up.  On the weekend we had a day at home and a day visiting family.  Visiting family wasn’t a big deal as my parents don’t really eat meat, in fact I’m sure my mother was quite pleased!

On Saturday morning before we headed off to Leicester to see my granny and meet my parents, we whipped up a quick salad from Hugh’s Everyday Veg book to take as our lunch offering (we were each making something).  We also had made a birthday cake as both my parents’ birthdays are in January – pictures of that to follow.

Saturday 14th January

Pearl barley salad with roasted squash and fennel, lemon juice, parsley and cheese.  This is a fresh wintery salad with the roasted squash and fennel tossed through the cooked pearl barley, and the other bits added to taste.  I am neither a huge fan of squash or fennel, but all together it was delicious.  I am learning to trust a few certain chefs to the point where I know I can make most of the recipes, irrespective of whether we think we like the ingredients, and know that we’ll love it.

My mom loved the salad and decided she might give in and buy the book – although she refused to watch anymore of the TV series after Hugh slaughtered a sheep during one episode and didn’t think it was appropriate for a programme encouraging vegetable eating.  I do see her point, although I understand Hugh’s motivations to encourage us to eat meat that is well-cared for.  Mommys.

(Sorry for the measly picture – I forgot to take any photos on Saturday so this is my leftover lunch on Monday)

Sunday 15th January

Broccoli and chilli pasta.  Penne pasta with steamed broccoli that had been tossed in lightly cooked garlic and chilli flakes and a good knob of butter.  I used to eat broccoli pasta all the time at University, but in the past few years haven’t been enamoured by the idea so have been reluctant to make it.  I’m so pleased we did though because there is something very comforting about this combination.  We didn’t follow a recipe we just made it up as we went along – some of the best cooking is done this way I think.

My meat-free month thoughts at the end of week 1

Last night we were chatting about how we were finding our meat-free month so far.  We’ve both had the odd pang for meat, salty crisp bacon in particular.  Bacon, egg and toast even more specifically for me.  But otherwise, I haven’t really had any meal where I’ve missed meat.  Mr Rigg says the one meal we’ve had that he would have enjoyed more with the addition of meat, again bacon, was the colcannon baked potatoes with the poached egg.

I am feeling much more cheerful about what we are cooking and eating, and I am excited about carrying on this way.  It is great to be challenged to come up with interesting and diverse meals that don’t contain meat or fish, and in the process we are discovering some firm new favourites, which we might not otherwise have found.

It also makes me want to carefully look at and work out how much meat we eat in the future – I’m sure somewhere I read guidelines on the suggested weight of meat we should each eat a month, I believe this was from a sustainable point of view, but probably also good for your health.

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Making a ‘risotto’ with pearl barley is perhaps one of my favourite dishes.  It’s lovely in every season and has a more interesting texture than risotto.  Don’t get me wrong, I still adore risotto (Milanese or saffron risotto is my favourite) but a barley risotto is a more rustic version.

You make a barley risotto in the same way you would a normal risotto – softening some onions and maybe some garlic, stirring in the barley and adding stock.  But this is where it differs: using risotto rice you would add a ladleful of hot stock at a time, stirring all the while, but with barley you can just bung in all the stock at once and leave it to simmer away.

So this is what I did.  At this point, all you have is a pan of plain barley, softened onions and lots of stock.  It depends on what vegetables you are adding to the dish as to when you add them. 

For this one with its lettuce, pea tendrils, spring onions and peas, they are all quite delicate vegetables that don’t need a lot of cooking.  So I added most of them in towards the end – the spring onions a little before the other veg so that they soften and lose some of their pungency – soft and sweet is what I want from spring onions in a dish like this.

Once all the stock has been absorbed by the barley – try it, it should still have a chewy bite to it – it’s ready to be eaten.  I topped it with some chunks of ripe brie just for a bit of luxury.  The heat of the risotto should start to melt the cheese and it begins to ooze and slide over the peas and between the barley grains.

This is ‘my recipe’ for it, sorry that there aren’t measurements or amounts.  I use the same amount of pearl barley for two as I would for risotto – we use 3 oz per person.  So for a meal for two, using 6 oz of pearl barley, I would cover it in about 500ml of hot vegetable stock – if you find it’s all been absorbed and the barley needs a bit more cooking, simply add a little more hot water until it’s done.

This week is all about eating lettuce.  We have some lovely gem lettuces that I’ve grown in the garden, but they are all starting to go wild and therefore we need to eat them – and soon!

So we got out the recipe books and here’s what we came up with…

So far we’ve eaten a salad of lettuce, peas and ham; wilted lettuce with broad beans which we teamed up with a quick ham omelette; and the lettuce risotto became a barley risotto with lettuce, pea tendrils, spring onions and peas.

Recipes to follow later this week, but here’s a sneak peek…

A salad of  lettuce, peas and ham

Wilted lettuce with broad beans and a ham omelette

Barley risotto with lettuce, pea tendrils, spring onions and peas

I’m busy getting lost in this great blog from Masterchef finalist Alex and have put his tomato and fennel soup on my list of ‘must cook’.

Meanwhile, we are majoring on spring stew – a meal of my own invention – pearl barley, pancetta and a host of vegetables.  Served for friends on Friday night with poached chicken.  Yum.

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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