Thursday, 11 December 2014

Red peppers and aubergines stuffed with a leek and tomato barley risotto

This was delicious, with a lovely rich tomato garlic flavour and a great texture from the barley. I forgot to take a photo, but it looked nice and I'll try to remember to take one next time I cook it. My biggest critic gave it the thumbs up with as much enthusiasm as a 16 year old can muster for her mother's cooking.

I've seen a few recipes for barley risottos recently, one of which called for pot barley. I've only ever seen pearl barley in the local supermarket, so I used that, but I did a bit of research into the different types. Who knew! According to you can get whole grain barley, which has only the outer husk removed. Pot barley and pearl barley have been polished in a pearling machine, pearl barley for longer. It seems the polisher polishes away a lot of the goodness of the grain, but it makes it lovely and shiny. Pot barley retains the bran layer. According the whole grains council website, the most healthy type of barley is hulled or hulless barley, so I will try to get hold of some of that to up the smugness factor nutritional benefits when I cook it next time.

I found a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe online for barley tomato and garlic risotto, which I used as a basis to get the cooking times and quantities about right, but I changed the ingredients and seasonings quite a bit. He calls for feta cheese scattered on the top, which I think would be perfect, but sadly I'm the only feta fan in the family, so I dolloped some Philadelphia that needed using up on a couple of the peppers instead, which was ok but not great as it's not really a good melting cheese. Some parmesan sprinkled over at the end might be nice.

(The original recipe was in the Guardian,

I have to admit that the meat eaters in the family also enjoyed a side dish of boiled smoked gammon, done in the pressure cooker, which went very well with the barley. My ladle was itching to scoop some of the ham stock into the risotto as I'm sure it would have imparted a delicious extra flavour to the barley, but I kept it under control and stuck with veg stock.

Red Peppers and Aubergines stuffed with a Leek and Tomato Barley Risotto

serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil (I substituted part of it with some from the jar of sundried tomatoes)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and put through a garlic press
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
500 ml hot veg stock (I used Knorr stockpots) with 2tbsp tomato puree stirred in
200g barley
2 medium aubergines
2 red peppers
3 sundried tomatoes (the type in a jar of oil) chopped
1 bay leaf
1 leek, washed and chopped
dash red wine
a couple of handfuls of chopped kale, leafy bits only, no tough stems 
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder (or to taste)
1 tsp sugar
black pepper
(I didn't add salt as the stock contains enough)
some cheese (optional, see above)

1. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds and pith, rub with olive oil. Cut aubergines in half, scoop out most of the flesh, but leave some around the inside of the skin. Rub with olive oil and put cut side down on a baking sheet. 

2. Gently fry the chopped leek, the aubergine flesh, and the garlic in the olive oil/tomato oil until softened.

3. Add the chopped tomatoes (both types) wine, spices, bay leaf, veg stock, sugar and barley and simmer over a low heat, stirring occasionally and adding extra stock if it gets dry and starts to stick.

4. Once the barley is simmering away, roast the peppers and aubergines outsides up in a hot oven (200C) until they are softened and slightly browned (about 15 mins or so, I didn't time it).

5. Add the kale to the barley mixture after about 40 mins of cooking and continue cooking until the barley is done but still has a bit of bite, in total about 50 minutes. The stock should mostly be absorbed, add more if it dries out to stop it sticking. 

6. Taste and adjust seasoning. You could just serve it in bowls at that stage if you didn't want to put it in the peppers and aubergines.

6. Spoon the risotto into the peppers and aubergines, top with cheese (one that melts properly, not like Philadelphia) and finish under the grill for a few minutes until the cheese melts and browns slightly.

It seems Yotam is a fan of barley as there is another recipe for Yotam Ottolenghi's pot barley with lentils, mushrooms and fried onion that I like the sound of here:

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