I'd heard about speltotto but I didn't realise until fairly recently that making a risotto with barley is actually a traditional thing in parts of Italy (well so Wikipedia tells me). So, I gave it a go.
First of all, the downsides. It takes a lot longer to cook than a risotto. The upsides though are pearl barley is about half the price of risotto rice, it's a source of fibre and it has more flavour of it's own unlike arborio which acts more like the canvas rather than the painting.
So this is my recipe, this is my first attempt and I have to say it was pretty good. My son had seconds and he's been a bit of a fuss pot recently. Personally I would have cooked it 5 mins longer than the 40 minutes I did but it was still delicious. It would be able to take more robust (and less traditional) flavours than a risotto too without being overpowered. A strong mature goat's cheese would be nice or even blue cheese. But this is what we had and it was good. Not bad for leftovers and some cheap grains.
Chicken and Pea Orzotto - serves 2 adults and 1 toddler
1 Small onion
2 Cloves of garlic
2 tsp of chicken fat or butter (see note below)
150g, 5.5oz Pearl Barley
1/2 tsp White wine vinegar
850ml, 1.5pints Chicken stock (preferably home made)
A bay leaf
200g, 7oz Cooked chicken
100g, 3.5oz Frozen small peas
2 generous tbsp Parmesan or other cheese of your choice
Small knob of butter
Parsley if liked
If you've had a roast chicken at the weekend, this is a great way to use up leftovers. Make stock from the bones and you will probably find once it cools there is a thin layer of fat on the surface. Well it might sound weird but why not use this to fry your onions? Ok, not up for that? Use a little butter. Anyway, peel and finely chop the onion and gently fry in a frying pan in the chicken fat or butter until softened. Put the stock onto heat up with the bay leaf until simmering. Add the garlic and then the pearl barley. Stir around a bit then add the vinegar followed by a ladle of stock. Stir around and then add the stock bit by bit as you would with risotto although as it takes far longer, I would be a bit more gung ho and add a few at a time early on to avoid extreme boredom!
Once you get to about 35 mins, slow the addition of stock and taste the barley, cooking for longer if needed. As I said I stopped at 40 minutes but I think 45 would have been a smidge better. Some Orzotto recipes I have seen say it takes 20 minutes but mine was still too firm by then.
Once the barley is pretty much cooked, add in the peas and chicken and continue to cook until they are hot through. Once hot, add the butter and cheese and beat in, taking off the heat. Leave to stand for a few minutes then serve sprinkled with parsley if liked.
Make it Thrifty
This is already a thrifty recipe due to using barley rather than risotto rice. I have heard since posting this though that soaking the barley overnight in cold water reduces the cooking time which will save energy. I will give it a go and let you know!
As this not only uses leftover ingredients but also substitutes barley which is half the price of risotto rice, I've linked this up to credit crunch munch on fabfood4all and fuss free flavours. I've added the blog hop on below if you want to join in!