Nettle and barley ‘risotto’ with goat’s cheese
- March 2019
- Serves 4
- Hands-on time 50 min, plus soaking
Gill Meller uses springtime nettles in his pearl barley risotto recipe but if you can’t get hold of nettles, you can use spinach instead. Try it for a meat-free Easter lunch.
Unsure of how and when to pick nettles? Take a look at Gill’s guide to foraging for nettles here.
- Vegetarian recipes
- 29.2g (14.8g saturated)
- 68.4g (5g sugars)
- 300g pearl barley
- 1.2 litres vegetable stock
- About 200g nettle tops, rinsed and ready to go (see tip)
- 50g butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 leek, halved, rinsed and sliced thinly
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced or grated
- 2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed in a pestle and mortar
- Finely grated zest ½ lemon
- Small bunch fresh lemon thyme (or half a bunch regular thyme), leaves picked
- 200ml dry cider
- 50g hard sheep’s cheese, parmesan or vegetarian alternative, grated
- 100g soft fresh goat’s cheese
- Put the barley in a large bowl, cover with fresh water and leave to soak for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, blanch the nettles: pour the stock into a large pan, put it over a medium-high heat and bring to a brisk simmer. Add the nettle tops, then bring back to the boil. Cook for 1 minute, then remove using a slotted spoon and set aside. Keep the stock over a low heat.
- Meanwhile, heat half the butter and 1 tbsp oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, leek, garlic, fennel seeds, lemon zest and half the thyme leaves along with plenty of salt and black pepper. Fry gently for about 10 minutes until everything is soft and smelling gorgeous.
- Drain the soaking barley, then stir it through the softened onion mixture and cook gently for a minute or two. Turn up the heat, add the cider, then let it bubble for a few moments before ladling in about a quarter of the hot stock, as you would for a classic rice risotto.
- Stir the barley as it soaks up the stock. Once the first batch has been absorbed add the next, and so on until you’ve added all the stock. It should take about 20-30 minutes for the barley to cook through, although it will retain a firm texture.
- A few minutes after you’ve added the last ladleful of stock, stir in the blanched nettle tops, the grated hard cheese and the remaining butter. Let the barley cook gently until it’s the right texture (I’d always go for a looser, wetter consistency, otherwise it can be too dry). Taste, adding salt
and pepper as required.
- Spoon the barley risotto into 4 bowls. Top with a crumbling of soft goat’s cheese, a scattering of lemon thyme, a drizzle of olive oil and a little extra salt and black pepper.
Nettles grow abundantly in hedgerows or you can buy them from farmers’ markets, or online at finefoodspecialist.co.uk or chegworthvalley.com. If picking them, go for those above waist height and away from dog walkers’ areas, and wear stout gloves so you don’t get stung.
A crisp, light, slightly herbaceous white suits this – English bacchus is a star match, as is Italian gavi.
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