I recently wrote about seasonal food and the urge for all things rich and hearty at this time of year. Well I seem to have taken this to heart a little too enthusiastically of late having stocked up on my fair share of slow roast pork, beef stews and lamb shanks.
So as my waistline goes in search of the limits of my last belt notch and Christmas, that famous period of ‘fasting’, just around the corner I thought I’d make something else; something healthier. There is nothing elaborate about this dish, the ingredients are cheap and easily obtained and so I urge you to give it a try. My only recommendation is that if you think you haven’t made enough, you have – this is pretty filling.
The secret of this is the balance of flavour with its sweet butternut squash and onions, salty/lemony goat’s cheese, roasted hazelnuts, and earthy thyme. I got some good quality goat’s cheese for this and it’s worth it, avoid the cheaper supermarket feta style cheese if you can.
I used a chicken stock for this, as I had some knocking about in the fridge, but you could easily use vegetable stock of course. I may try this again one day with some game bird though, I reckon it’d work beautifully.
- Half a butternut squash, cut into small cubes
- 1 large garlic clove
- Knob of butter
- A little olive oil
- 1 red onion, roughly chopped
- A few sprigs of thyme, leaves only
- 100g pearl barley
- 500ml stock, chicken or vegetable
- About 60g (2oz) good quality goats cheese
- Small squeeze of lemon to taste, or if needed
- A generous handful of skinned hazelnuts
- Chopped parsley or a little mint leaf to finish
Heat the stock until almost boiling.
Heat the butter/some oil in a pan and cook the garlic until golden coloured. Stir in the barley and coat well.
Add a good ladle of the stock and stir well. Once nearly gone, add the rest of the stock – don’t worry this isn’t like a regular risotto, your really only looking to cook the grains. Place a lid on and allow to cook until softened but with a little bite – about 45 minutes.
Whilst cooking, soften the onion in a little more oil in a pan with a pinch of salt. Turn off the heat and add the thyme to gently heat.
For the last 10 minute or so of cooking the barley, add the onion/thyme and butternut squash cubes so as they’re just done. Remove the butternut squash and set aside if they are cooked but the barley isn’t – they need a little bite. Taste and carefully correct with a little lemon juice if needed, don’t go overboard.
Wipe the pan used for the onion clean and dry roast the hazelnuts until well coloured.
Place the barley risotto in a bowl and crumble over the goats cheese and hazelnuts.
Finish with some chopped parsley or mint, then completely blow away your good intentions by having a large glass of Chardonnay with it. Cheers!