Although I knew you could put pearly barley in soups and stews to give a thicker texture, I’d never thought of making a meal in which pearl barley was the main ingredient, used like rice to make a risotto, until I saw it used like this in a recipe in my slow cooker cookbook from which I’ve taken inspiration for various recipes that I’ve come up with. The barley gives it a slightly different taste and texture compared to ordinary risotto with rice, and I like having this for a change. Plus barley is supposed to be good for breast milk production.
The recipe for pearl barley risotto in my book isn’t really my cup of tea because it contains blue cheese, which I don’t like. So I’ve changed all the ingredients except the pearl barley and created a risotto that’s more to my taste. I included a tin of chopped tomatoes because, for risottos in general, I’m into using chopped tomatoes as part of the liquid for cooking the rice – it gives it a good flavour without having to use as much stock, which is great in terms of salt reduction for little ones, and Andrew isn’t too keen on raw tomatoes but will happily eat cooked ones from a tin in sauces on pasta and rice like this. The vegetables in this risotto were those which came in our veg box this week – all our meals these days are planned around what veg we get, and I like this because it makes me think of new things rather than always buying the same kinds of veg week in week out. I also chucked in a tin of canellini beans as the protein in our meal. The final touch was a sprinkling of grated mature cheddar to give an extra boost of flavour.
My boys approved, and Andrew even asked for seconds of ‘zotto’, so it must have gone down well. This recipe was enough for 2 meals for us, so that’s 2 evenings of not having to cook just at the time when we’re all tired and irritable. Result!
- 230g pearl barley
- half a large savoy cabbage, finely chopped
- 1 medium leek, finely chopped
- 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 900ml vegetable stock (I use low-salt for toddler)
- 400g tin canellini beans, drained
- 3 tbsp dried oregano
- 50g mature cheddar, grated
- Put all the ingredients except the cheddar into the slow cooker pot and stir to mix them together.
- Cook on low for 8 hours.
- Stir well before serving with a sprinkling of grated cheese on top.
For Christmas, Tom bought me a weekly fruit and veg box, which was a fantastic present. I’d been saying for a while that I wanted to buy fruit and veg that’s grown as locally as possible, but I find I don’t have the time to get to a green grocers as well as the supermarket for our other groceries, and when I’m in the supermarket I don’t seem to have the patience to look at all the labelling and spot which fruit and veg are grown in the UK or, better still, in East Anglia. And I’m not an expert on what’s in season when. So Tom acted on my whinges and chose a local company – Cambridge Organic Food Company – to deliver to us. If you live in the area I’d highly recommend them. We get the smallest mixed box and it’s easily enough veg for us for a week, and we eat a lot of it, though I buy one more item of fruit such as a bunch of grapes, a bunch of bananas or a melon. This works out quite a bit cheaper than national companies like Abel & Cole and Riverford. Overall I reckon that we spend no more on this than we would if I got good quality organic stuff from a supermarket, and it tastes so good. Plus we know that each item comes from as local a source as possible, and it’s less for me to carry back in the buggy from the shop – often fruit and veg can mean almost a whole supermarket trip in themselves. We get to tailor our box to our needs and tastes, such as by stating what we would rather not have, which brings me onto…… lemon drizzle cake (finally).
Last week we got a lemon in the box for the first time. As we rarely use lemons, I subsequently added it to our “no thank you” list (which so far only consists of lemons!), but as we had this one, I thought about what I could make – this is another good thing about getting a box, as it’s a surprise each week, which makes you try items and recipes that you wouldn’t necessarily think of otherwise. I immediately thought sweet rather than savoury, so lemon drizzle cake sprang to mind. This isn’t a cake I’d normally go for myself, but I know Tom loves it, so I did it more for him. Of course I tried it too 😉
The recipe I came up with after doing a bit of googling is inspired by a few different recipes, and is simple to make. The ground almonds make it really moist, and the lemon flavour is intense as it comes from three sources: zest in the sponge, juice in the syrup poured over the cake when warm to soak in, and juice in the crunchy icing drizzled over the top. Note that not all the juice came fresh from the one lemon – I used some Jif too! Tom loves lemon cake, but he likes it best when it actually tastes of lemon rather than the lemon-ish ones that you can buy in the shops. He says he often wishes they were made with twice as much lemon, just like his Nan used to make. So that was my aim, and after tasting it, he gave me the thumbs up for lemon-ness – hooray!
Are you feeling like a lemon today?! Why not have a go too……
- 180g margarine
- 180g sugar
- 3 eggs
- 120g self-raising flour
- 60g ground almonds
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- zest of 1 lemon
- 60g icing sugar
- 60ml lemon juice
- 60g granulated sugar
- 30g icing sugar
- juice of half a lemon – about 20ml
- Grease a 1lb loaf tin (I used a silicone tin so no greasing needed) and pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (fan).
- Cream the margarine and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the egg until smooth.
- Add the lemon zest and stir in.
- Add the flour, baking powder and ground almonds and mix until just combined – don’t over mix.
- Pour into the tin and bake for around 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Meanwhile, to make the syrup, heat the icing sugar and lemon juice in a pan until it comes to the boil and allow to simmer until the sugar is fully dissolved and it starts to go darker in colour.
- Remove the cake from the oven, and while still warm, make several holes across the top using a skewer. Pour the syrup over the top while it’s still in the tin.
- Allow to cool before removing from the tin and transferring to a plate.
- Mix the icing ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Pour this over the centre of the top of the cake and allow it to drizzle down the sides.
- Eat as fresh as possible – Tom tasted it after about 10 minutes of it being complete!