Mmmmm, time for warming, hearty meals! I love barley risotto, it's satisfyingly earthy and nourishing and very easy. You can make it vegan, without the butter and cheese and it's just as good, but it's extra comforting with a good grating of strong cheddar. I'm not too sure on measurements since I made this up and don't really measure,and I tend to use whatever veg I have to hand (squash and mushrooms are essential though!) but I think it's about right. Also nice cold for lunch the next day.
Serves 4 (or 2 with leftovers for lunch!)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
half a butternut squash/pumpkin, peeled and diced quite small
1 large/2 small courgettes, roughly chopped
good handful of chesnut mushrooms, sliced
1 mug of pearl barley
good big slug of red wine
tamari/shoyu to taste
2 mugs stock/water & bouillon (+more if needed)
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
large pinch dried sage
very generous handful fresh spinach (sometimes I use a whole bag, it's up to you!)
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
freshly ground pepper
1 oz butter
handful grated cheddar cheese
extra seasonal veg (e.g. peppers, celery, leeks etc.)
Dried mushrooms, soaked to rehydrate (you can use the soaking water as tasty stock)
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan (with a little bit of butter if you like), and add the onion and garlic. Saute for a couple of minutes. Add the squash, mushrooms, courgette and other veg. The squash can take a bit longer to cook, soI try to chop it quite small. Cover the pan, turn the heat down and sweat for 10 minutes or so (helps the squash get nice and tender).
2. Tip in the barley, and stir to coat with the tasty juices. Slosh in some red wine, followed by the stock. Add the tamari and herbs, except the parsley. Cover, and simmer over a low heat, stirring occasionally until the barley has absorbed the stock and turned lovely and plump and tender, with a slightly creamy/saucey texture (you might need to add more stock). Like risotto, you want the barley to be al dente, thick and creamy but not too runny. Taste, and add more wine or tamari if needed.
3. Roughly tear the spinach and add to the pan in a thick layer. Put the lid back on and steam for a few moments until it starts to wilt, then stir into the mixture to cook down. Add a little knob of butter, the parsley and season well with freshly pepper, the tamari is salty so I don't tend to add any more.
4. Serve, with grated cheese and a little more parsley to garnish if you like.