Day three of the slow cooker experiment (£8 from Wilkinsons!) and I decide to try a risotto in it. Only I’m not using rice and this doesn’t have the characteristic standing-and-stirring of a risotto, so I’m not really sure what to call it, apart from bloody yummy – as I’m tucking in as I type this! I haven’t overloaded this with too many flavours, as the chewy nuttiness of pearl barley speaks for itself, but if you have the inclination, this would be delicious as a side dish with juicy cooked chicken, or padded out as a cold salad with sliced black olives and tomatoes – a sort of tabbouleh, if you will.
Ingredients (serves 2) – in a 1.5l stock pot.
160g pearl barley
100g frozen spinach
I cup of chicken stock
3 cups of water
50g Greek style cheese (feta or equivalent)
1 tbsp Lemon juice
Few sprigs of Parsley
Pour the water, lemon juice and stock into the slow cooker and add the pearl barley. Cook on High for an hour, then reduce to Low.
Cook for a further 2 hours on a low heat – check after 2 hours, mine was swollen and sticky, just how I like it. Defrost the spinach and add it to the dish, stirring through.
To serve, crumble over the cheese, garnish with chopped parsley and a splash of lemon juice.
Delicious hot or cold. Would also benefit from a drizzle of oil when served – like the Spanish do with Paella – but it only occurred to me as I was eating it!
Those of you without a slow cooker can make this in a saucepan by bringing a saucepan of the water and stock to the boil, and adding the pearl barley. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes then reduce to a simmer for a further 20, adding the frozen spinach to the pan. You may need to add more water, as the slow cooker retains moisture where a saucepan does not so well. When the pearl barley is swollen and tender, drain any excess water and serve with crumbled cheese, chopped parsley and a splash of lemon juice – and oil, if you wish.
Ingredient cost breakdown, the orange supermarket, correct at time of going to blog:
500g pearl barley 55p (160g/18p)
10 chicken stock cubes 20p (1 stock cube/2p)
1kg frozen spinach £1.49 (100g/15p)
200g Greek style cheese 80p (50g/20p)
250ml lemon juice 60p (1tbsp/4p)
27g parsley -approx 20 sprigs – 80p (2 sprigs/8p)
Tip – Chop the remaining parsley and leave it on a side plate or in a mug to dry out for a few days, or hang it from something (I use an elastic band and a bit of string to hang it from a cupboard handle – high up, not near the floor for vague hygiene reasons) or chop it and press it into ice cube trays with a little water for instant portions of ‘fresh’ chopped parsley.
Mine was cheaper than stated as I used home made chicken stock (another slow cooker triumph – to be blogged soon!) and home grown parsley from my window ledge, but I appreciate not everyone has those lying about, so I’ve costed them in for arguments sake.
Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe.