For many years, I’ve had a deep longing to create a form of risotto using barley, but as the Italians might tell me off, I decided to play safe and call this a stew. The spices add complex notes, but the heat should be gentle. The dish is wholesome, satisfying and healthy yet luxuriously creamy and a fantastic showcase for the big flavour of my favourite early nantes carrots.
For the carrots
- 500 ml (2 cups/18bfl oz) carrot juice
- large pinch of sea salt
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 6 carrots (ideally Early Nantes), skin on, scrubbed, halved lengthways then cut into 1 cm (½ in) slices at an angle
For the barley risotto
- 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 80 g (2¾ oz) white onion (about ½ medium onion), chopped
- 2 Pasilla Bajio chillies, seeds removed, finely chopped
- 150 g (5½ oz) pearl barley
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 corn cob, cooked in boiling water for 20 minutes, covered
- 4 rainbow chard (silverbeet) leaves, rolled and chopped, stems cut into 3 cm (1¼ in) pieces
- 3 spring onions (scallions), finely sliced
- 1 small bunch coriander, chopped
- ½ lemon, juiced
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ tbsp rapeseed oil
- micro coriander (optional)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
For the carrots, in a large saucepan over a medium heat, bring the carrot juice and 100 ml (3½ fl oz) water to the boil, then add the salt and cumin. Add the carrot and simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until they are cooked through. Remove from the heat, remove the carrot and reserve the cooking liquid.
For the barley, in a medium, lidded saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil and gently fry the onion and chillies for 5 minutes, covered with a lid, until softened. Stir in the barley and cumin and continue to fry for a minute. Add 500 ml (2 cups/18 fl oz) of the carrot cooking liquid to the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer, then cover with the lid and cook for 50-55 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the barley swells and is firm with a good bite. Check the texture, taste and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes more, if necessary. Set aside in the pan.
To finish the barley risotto, using a long knife, carefully cut the kernels off the corn cob by running a knife along the central core. Keep 4 of the biggest lengths intact to use as garnish. Set these aside then release the kernels from the rest. Add the chard stems and leaves, spring onion and loose corn kernels to the barley pan and stir. Place the pan back on medium heat and cook for 12 minutes. Add the coriander and cook for a further minute until wilted. Finally, taste and adjust the seasoning if required, then add the lemon juice to sharpen the flavour.
To finish, in a frying pan over a medium heat, fry the cooked carrot pieces in the rapeseed oil for 6-7 minutes, until caramelised. Add the reserved pieces of sliced corn to the pan and cook for 3 minutes, or until they begin to brown.
To serve, remove the caramelised carrot, add to the barley risotto and divide the risotto evenly between four plates. Finish with a length of sliced corn and micro coriander, if using. Serve immediately.