Barley Risotto with Butternut Squash, Hazelnuts and Goat’s Cheese

Barley Risotto with Butternut Squash, Hazelnuts and Goat's Cheese

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.

Butternut squash barley risotto ingredients

 Serves two/three:

  • 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
  • Salt
  • 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.

Red onion & thyme

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!

Barley Risotto with Butternut Squash, Hazelnuts and Goat's Cheese

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Goats cheese and Walnut Salad

There’s been a distinct lack of blog updates recently I admit and for the most part that’s been due to a fair bit of eating out. More on this later actually…..

And so, having eaten far too much rich food over the last week or so, this week, or what remains of it will focus on ‘lighter’ food. Tonight I made a goats cheese and walnut salad, with pear and a honey dressing. I’d had this classic combination a number of times, but the best was during a meal in an almost desserted Clube de Jornalistas in Lisbon where we sat outside in an amazing rear courtyard. I think the fact a thunderstorm had only just petered out had something to do with the lack of patrons.  Maybe only the Brits and our reluctant ability  to endure the rain were able to venture out that night!

This isn’t a complicated dish and therefore depends in part on the quality of the ingredients, particularly the goats cheese which should be smooth with a ‘saltiness’, rather than the the acidic supermarket approximations. I think next time it would benefit from some sweet cured bacon pieces, but nevertheless we both enjoyed this.

Serves 2, takes 10 minutes tops.

Ingredients:

  • Two large handfuls of Frisee lettuce, washed and dried
  • 4 walnuts, chopped roughly
  • 200g goats cheese, the best quality you can get/afford
  • 1 pear, peeled and thinly sliced

For the dressing:

  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tbsp oil (I used garlic infused rapeseed oil)
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Salt (a good pinch) and Pepper to taste

Simply arrange a layer of frisee lettice on each plate and add  some of the goats cheese. Pile the remaining frisee on followed by the remaining cheese and walnuts.

Mix up the dressing ingrdients thoroughly. Peel and slice the pear thinly and layer on top of the salad.

Finally, use a teaspoon and drizzle the dressing over both salads.

Simple as that!

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