Saturday, February 7, 2015

originals: barley risotto pseudo-iberico

Almost 10-month break. I'm not sure how that happened. It's not like I stopped cooking - I learned to make kimchi, I helped organise an actual food event, threw a few dinners for my friends. It's not like I stopped writing either - I write book reviews now, me. But it doesn't matter.

What matters is that a few days ago I just walked into my kitchen, looked at what I had, went for a quick walk to the store (that's what I do now - I don't buy food online, I walk to the grocery store every day) and came back to prepare a proper meal for my fiancé, who was just about to come back from his Frank-like trip. These are the ingredients I ended up with.

  • 2 medium sized red onions, chopped finely
  • 250 g oyster mushrooms, cut in finger wide stripes and then in half
  • a large (I mean, large) knob of butter
  • 60 g chorizo, cut to your liking, in rather small pieces
  • 250 g flat beans, cut in squares
  • 500 g barley
  • dry white wine (in this case, Spanish)
  • grated iberico cheese - to taste
  • 1 l chicken broth
  • some olive oil (again - Spanish)
  • salt, pepper (freshly grated, duh), nutmeg,  (saffron)

Do you see the pattern? I can't say that watching Rick Stein in Spain every day for a week didn't leave its mark. And, of course, there he is - my huge, glorious cat, my well-educated sous chef, meat aficionado, known to read Cooking for Geeks for the pure pleasure of learning. He ran away as soon as I started chopping the onion.

Immediately after preparing this thing I figured out a few ways to improve it, so allow me to tell you how I would do it again rather than how I did it this time. The beginning is simple, like with every risotto. In a large pot (I figured it won't fit in any skillet I have) melt the butter with some great quality aromatic olive oil for additional flavour. [I know I might have overdone it with the fat, especially taking under consideration the later added fat from the chorizo - for me fat equals flavour, but you don't have to add as much as I did - just make sure it will cover the whole bottom of the pan.] Add the chopped onion and chorizo with a pinch of salt and cook them until the onion is translucent and the fat melted away from the chorizo. Already at this point the smell is amazing - the essence of the joy of cooking.

Add the barley and stir everything well so that it's completely covered in the fat. Adjust the heat so that it's pretty high, but without the risk of burning everything. For a few minutes stir everything well and let the barley really take in the flavour from the chorizo and onions. Add the wine - enough to cover the barley and then some. Again stir well and let the barley drink up the wine, making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.

Start adding the (hot) broth (keep it in a pot on small heat), bit by bit, still making sure there's no sticking at the bottom - I usually use a big ladle and add more broth as soon as the rice/barley takes in what I poured in. Somewhere halfway through the broth add the chopped beans and season generously with black pepper. Be careful with salt, as the cheese that is to be added later is pretty salty itself. Continue adding the broth and check the seasoning. I also added a bit of nutmeg. Somehow I had no saffron at home, but I imagine a strand or two would elevate the whole thing (and make it even more Spanish, since Rick Stein said he can't imagine a more Spanish spice ; ) ).

When there's almost no broth left, add some grated cheese - to your liking - and once again check and adjust the seasoning. Add the last batch of the broth and if the barley is cooked through after it's absorbed - finish cooking. If not, you can add some water and cook it until it's done.

Now - when I made this I added the oyster mushrooms to the whole thing about the same time I added the beans. This was a mistake, as they completely disappeared among the other flavours. So what I'd do the next time round - sauté the mushrooms on butter with some salt and pepper and serve them on top of the risotto with a few flakes of cheese.

I'm pretty happy with this recipe - I think both the flavours and the textures go great together, it's rich, creamy, with a bit of crunch from the beans and relatively healthy, I think. I hope you like it too.