Thursday, 26 April 2018

Orzotto of barley and Jerusalem artichokes



Orzotto. As risotto is rice, an Orzotto is... barley (orzo in Italian). However don't confuse 'orzo' with 'orzo' which is a type of pasta (AKA risoni because it looks like, er... barley).

And this is why I try and use English terms in my kitchen. So let's start again.

This is a barley pottage, with Jerusalem artichokes, two ways: little boiled chunks and deep fried crispy skins. It's an excellent use of the whole tuber. Because these are not artichokes, they are the root of the sunflower. In yet another linguistic confusion, some poor, confused 16th century scribe heard girasole and wrote Jerusalem. Girasole is Italian for sunflower. In fairness, our made up man was quite devout and maybe the plainsong had been really loud that evening. You know how monks liked to pump up the jam?

This recipe belongs to chef David Everitt-Matthias. I was looking for new ways to serve barley, a great staple. Barley is easier to both cook and serve than rice. It's much more forgiving and even benefits from pre-cooking in a way rice just doesn't. Add more water to cooked rice and you often end up with... glue. Barley sucks it up and remains toothsome. 

Jerusalem artichokes are one of those like-nothing-else flavours. I love their distinctive  taste. I keep seeing them described as 
sweet and nutty but that's misleading, at least to my palate. Their distinctiveness is partly because its storage carbohydrate is inulin instead of starch. Note: INULIN not insulin. This is a low calorie carb... so we obviously need to deep fry them or serve with lots of butter. Ha. 

Some may bang on about the unique health benefits of inulin but that's not my gig at all. However, one incontestable benefit of inulin: its digestion can be quite gaseous in some people. So that's the after dinner cabaret sorted!

Barley and Jerusalem artichoke pottage
Serves six as a starter

Start by baking your tubers. Place six 100g Jerusalem artichokes (JAs) on a baking tray and roast at 140°C for an hour.

Stop. That's what David says. Mine took two hours. Maybe his were long and thin. Mine weren't. Less surface area = more oven time. Mine were all kinds of sizes too. Just take them out when they're done.

Aw. Cute.
 Bake until tender. Allow to cool. Split the JAs lengthways into two or four if they are large, scraping out the soft flesh. I found a blunt knife was the best tool for this. It is a faffy job. Takes half an hour maybe. You can't rush it as you need the skins in reasonable shape for deep frying. Cut up the flesh into coarse chunks and reserve for later.

If you've ever made a risotto, the rest will be familiar and very easy. If you haven't, it will still be easy and you'll have learned how to make risotto.

In a small saucepan, bring about a litre of chicken stock to the boil. You know how I feel about shop bought stock so I'll just presume you've made your own and we'll never speak of it else.

In a decent glug of rapeseed oil (for its nutty flavour but use any oil or butter) fry a diced onion until it's translucent. We're not looking for colour. Add a couple of finely chopped garlic cloves and fry for a couple of minutes more. Now pour on 150g of pearl barley and fry for a few more minutes. Smell. You should be able to detect the roasting grains.

Pour on 150g of white wine (about a quarter of a bottle) and simmer until most of the wine is reduced. Now add the boiling stock, reserving about a quarter. Cover and simmer very gently, stirring occasionally until the stock has been absorbed. This will take at least half an hour. I sometimes use the rice cooker for this last stage. Try the barley. It's probably too hard. You can leave the barley like this for a while, prepped, until you wish to eat. Stick it in the fridge overnight if you like. It'll be fine.

Final additions: mascarpone, butter and Parmesan.


When it comes to dinner, gently reheat the barley and add the rest of the (reboiled) stock. Simmer until absorbed. Taste. You want a little firmness. Add more stock, water or even more wine if it needs it.

Deep frying the skins
While the grains are a-swelling, heat up your deep fat fryer to 180°C or heat up some oil. Without a temperature probe, you're using guesswork. Add the skins and fry until crisp and golden. No more than five minutes. If that. Sprinkle with sea salt and set aside. 

Once you're happy with the texture: season with salt and black pepper and a little dried thyme. Stir in 50g of mascarpone, 30g of grated Parmesan and 30g of unsalted butter. Mix well.

Now add the crispy skins on top.

I followed David's example and served the pottage with goats cheese and a peanut & parsley pesto. It would also be good with some beetroot puree and perhaps some toasted halloumi.
















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