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No, it's not really risotto, but it's really good and a whole lot easier! The color is gorgeous, too. A recipe from Ottolenghi's "Jerusalem", a cookbook with great recipes, not a loser in the bunch! The things that make it special are the toasted caraway in the feta marinade and the fresh oregano. Do not use dried oregano; if you can't get fresh, then use another fresh herb, such as basil, chives, tarragon, sage, or even a bit more fresh thyme. We are not big caraway fans, but this comes together to make a delicious vegetarian main dish. All you need is a simple salad of fresh greens on the side. I use dried thyme instead of fresh, about 1 tsp. It's even better if you make your own raw tomato puree; just blend and sieve. I also like to toast the barley several minutes in the oil and veggie mixture before adding the liquids to give it a nuttier flavor.
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 small celery ribs, cut in 1/4 inch dice
- 2 small shallots, cut in 1/4 inch dice
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1⁄2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 slices lemon peel
- 1⁄4 teaspoon chili flakes
- one can chopped tomato (15 oz./400g.)
- scant 3 c./ 700 ml. vegetable stock
- 1 1⁄4 c./ 300 ml. passata (sieved crushed tomatoes)
- 1 tablespoon caraway seed
- 10 1⁄2 oz./ 300 g. feta cheese, broken into roughly 3/4 inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves (or more to taste)
- Rinse the barley well under cold water and leave to drain well.
- Melt the butter and 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a very large frying pan and cook the celery, shallots, and garlic over gentle heat for 5 minutes, until soft. Add the barley, thyme, paprika, bay, lemon peel, chile flakes, tomatoes, stock, passata, and a small amount of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a very gentle simmer and cook for 45 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. When ready, the barley should be tender and most of the liquid absorbed.
- Meanwhile, toast the caraway seeds in a dry pan for a couple of minutes, being careful not to burn them. Then lightly crush them so that some whole seeds remain. Add them to the feta with the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil and mix GENTLY to combine.
- Once the risotto is ready, check and correct for seasoning and then divide it among four shallow bowls. Top each serving with 1/4 of the marinated fetainxcluding the oil, and a sprinkling of oregano leaves.