Pearl Barley Ratatouille ‘Risotto’
Pearl barley ‘risotto’ studded with Mediterranean vegetables, makes an unfussy, healthy and speedy vegetarian supper. It is deeply flavourful with a lovely, nutty, chewy bite from the pearl barley. If you omit the butter, it’s also vegan (a dollop of coconut yoghurt would be a perfect vegan alternative).
A good glug of olive oil, plus extra to serve 1 onion, finely chopped (or use about 150g frozen chopped onions)
1 medium aubergine, sliced lengthways and cut into roughly 1cm dice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1⁄2 tsp dried oregano
1 red pepper, halved, de-seeded and cut into roughly 1cm dice
150g pearl barley
1 x 400g tin chopped or plum tomatoes
400ml vegetable stock (or use chicken, if not vegetarian), or use 1 stock cube
1 medium courgette, cut into roughly
12 pitted black olives, halved
4 knobs of butter
Heat the olive oil in a lidded sauté pan (around 24 x 6cm), add the onion, aubergine and some seasoning and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened.
Add a little more olive oil if necessary as they cook, but the aubergine will soak up as much as you give it, so don’t be tempted to add too much. Don’t forget the garlic, oregano, red pepper and pearl barley and stir over the heat for a minute or two.
Add the tomatoes and stock, or, if using a cube, fill the empty tomato tin with water, add it to the pan and crumble over the stock cube. Bring to a boil, while stirring, then add generous seasoning.
Cover and simmer very gently for 30 minutes, giving it the odd stir and adding a little more water if all the liquid has been absorbed.
Stir in the courgette and black olives, bring back to a simmer, and simmer, uncovered, for a further 10 minutes, until the barley is plumped and tender but still chewy and the courgette retains a little bite.
You may need to loosen the mixture with a little water – it should be just on the sloppy side, rather than dry or runny. Check the seasoning.
Serve in bowls with a knob of butter nestled into the middle of each serving, a scattering of basil leaves (if using) and an extra swirl of olive oil. Hand around the cheese separately (if using).
A small bowl of grated vegetarian (or vegan) Italian-style hard cheese
Step 1 can be completed up to a day in advance. Cool, cover and chill. Reheat gently in the pan until hot throughout, then continue as above.