Deep Dark Mushroom Barley Risotto


Velvety and nutty textured this is the comfort that the creeping of Autumn is calling for.  It’s deeply savory, it’s salty and it’s brightened with parsley and a breath of lemon juice.  Let’s give rice a run for it’s money!


Pearl barley.  It used to be an old world something food that Grandma’s put in their stews, now it has a new lease of life as the star of the show.  Salads are built around it (particularly good with grilled chicken, plums and basil), it’s soaked with flavour giving stock and stuffed into delicious things.  It makes a great sweet dessert (more on that later) and it’s a beautiful rice substitute.

Here, it is used exactly the same way you would for a normal risotto, except it is way less needy than rice.  It doesn’t need to be constantly stirred to give up a silky result.  As long as you’re on watch as the cooking time draws to a close, so you don’t add too much liquid, you’ll be left with a risotto that falls from the spoon the way it should.


This makes enough for two of us for dinner

12g (ish) dried mushrooms – I had shiitake to hand
50g butter
1 medium/large onion, diced quite small
250g pearl barley
800ml chicken/mushroom/vegetable stock – I used one Kallo chicken and one Kallo mushroom stock cube
150g portobello mushrooms
350g chestnut mushrrooms
25g butter
ground black pepper
1 garlic clove minced/crushed/chopped
handful of chopped parsley
1-2 tsp lemon juice
handful of finely grated parmesan/grana padano

Pop the dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover them with boiling water.
Into a deep saucepan add the butter and the onions on low. Cook until the mushrooms begin to go translucent but not brown.
Have the stock/s to hand. Tip in the pearl barley and stir to coat the grains with the butter. They will catch on the bottom of the pan as they absorb the butter, they don’t ‘fry’ in it, so once they’re coated pop in the stock and bring to a boil then turn to medium/low.
While this is bubbling away slice up your mushrooms and put them into a separate pan with the butter, pepper and garlic. Let the mushrooms cook and begin to wilt, they’ll give up quite a bit of water. Boil off most of this water but not all of it. This is concentrated mushroom stock, it is delicious savory flavour, it is UMAMI!
Turn the heat off under the mushrooms. Slap on a lid and they can just wait their turn.
Pour the dried mushrooms and all their liquid into the barley.
Check the barley, it should be approaching al dente. Nutty chewiness is good, a raw snap is not. If it’s approaching the delicious chewy stage but still has lots of water left, whack up the heat to boil it off but stir occasionally to prevent burning. Don’t worry, barley is resilient. On the flip side, if it’s not ready yet but seems to be drying out – add more water or stock. (If using stock cubes don’t add more than two! Just add more water or it will be too salty.. yes, there is such a thing as too much salt).
When it’s ready turn off the heat.  Add the cooked mushrooms and all their ‘resting juice’.  Add in the parmesan, parsley and lemon. Mix it through. Taste it to see if it needs any seasoning adjustment.

Like a risotto, slap on the lid and let it sit for five minutes. I’m sure you can find something else to do for that time. Toss the salad, soak the dishes, make sure everyone has wine cutlery or just go feed the cat.

Dish up and devour.  Salad goes really well, but so do wilted greens with a little lemon juice.  Savoy cabbage, broccoli.. whatever you fancy or have to hand.

Leftovers are also really good cold, eaten from a bowl with a spoon.  Just gonna put that out there..

Blackberry Flaugnarde


Just in time for the weekend! This would be pretty amazeballs after a Sunday lunch. Apparently you’re not supposed to accompany a flaugnarde, not even a little cream.  In my mind though, it’s starting to get a little cold outside so some softly whipped cream would be a delight.

Most importantly though – this dessert is simple. S.I.M.P.L.E. You mix together four ingredients, pour it over fruit and the oven does the rest. That’s it. Done. Finito. Means you can get on with your weekend relaxing, lounging in pyjamas (can’t be just me, can it?) And still be rewarded!


I ended up using 450g blackberries cause they’re so damn delicious right now, but you could use cherries (which would turn this flaugnarde into a clafoutis!) or blueberries.. some raspberries.. Go for it.
So. This recipe really should sort out four of you.. especially if you’re taking me up on that cream offer.. but the two of us hungrily devoured it. Oops.

Four big tablespoons of plain flour (or 1/2 C)
Five big tablespoons of caster sugar (or 1/2 C) and some extra for dusting
3 eggs
1 capful of almond extract (I mean it’s lid.. not a cup, dear god!)
350ml milk
450g blackberries
Icing sugar for flinging on top whilst it’s hot

Set the oven to work, about 180c.
Grab your dish.. the flaugnarde will rise in the oven and then settle down so choose something that will hold all the fruit and have a little extra height.  Butter the dish and dust it with sugar.
Turf in the fruit.
Add the flour and sugar to a mixing bowl and stir it together. Add the three eggs and mix it well but quickly, overworked flour goes rubbery.
Add the almond extract and the milk.
stir it all together and pour over the fruit.
Into the oven for about 40 minutes but keep an eye on her.


Eat it hot, warm, cold.. just eat it. I’m off to make another one.

No. Really.

Kedgeree With Pinhead Oats


This is an absolute revelation.  I’ll probably never make kedgeree with rice again (but I love rice, so I probably will). Pinhead oats (also steel cut oats) may well be my new favourite thing.  I bought a bag from Mmm… in Grainger Market, they are absolutely amazing, if I need something that probably won’t be carried in the average supermarket they always save the day, utter foodie heaven.

I had intended to send this recipe for consideration to the Guardian for their weekly supplement Cook as they were calling for readers to submit recipes using oats, but I didn’t read that part of the article until 12 hours after the deadline.  Oops.  Next one is for noodles, I have a trick or two up my sleeve there!

Nevertheless, It’s the best food twist I’ve had all year and I demand you make it.  It goes a little something like this..


Take two fillets of undyed smoked haddock and poach them in a mix of milk and water with peppercorns, half an onion and a bay leaf.  Everything goes in cold and when it begins to boil just turn off the heat and let it sit while you do other things.  Yes it will be cooked, no it will not be overcooked.


Skin side up and this pan is just off the heat.  I do indeed love heavy pans, I don’t go to the gym so I may as well lift delicious things.


In a separate pan you need one finely chopped onion, two heaped teaspoons of good quality curry powder, one bay leaf and about 50g of butter – calm it, this will serve four people.


Sorry.  I love the colour of curry powder.


Fire it up on medium and cook out the onions without colouring them.  The whole thing is a little on the sweet side so we don’t need to caramelise the onions.


Add in 220ml (ML) of pinhead oatmeal and make sure it all gets coated with the melted spicy butter – much like you would with risotto rice.  Add in 340ml of hot Kallo chicken stock (or fish/vegetable stock if you’re meat free) and turn it to low.  Stir it often to prevent it sticking.


Once pretty much all of the water has been absorbed you can peel the skin away from the haddock and flake it into the oats in big chunks, mixing the fish in will break it up further.


Soft boil or poach an egg (or two) whilst you mix in some finely chopped parsley and a little lemon juice, these two give the earthy flavours a little lift.  Of course, use coriander instead by all means, I prefer parsley here.


Ta da!  This made me a happy girl.  Go get some happy!

Could serve four alongside a starter or dessert, or two ravenous people who like their eggs two at a time.

2 smoked haddock fillets – approximately 500g (could easily be less, 500g is a very generous amount of fish)
200ml milk + 200ml water
2 bay leaves
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small onion in chunks
1tsp peppercorns
220ml (yes ml, I.. um.. broke my scales..) pinhead oatmeal, not rolled/quick cook oats = mushy!
2 heaped tsp mild curry powder, I used Barts
50g butter
340ml chicken stock (other stocks are good, but not beef)
Bunch of parsley
1 lemon
soft boiled eggs to finish

Poach the fish in the milk + water mix with one of the bay leaves, the peppercorns and the small chunked onion.
Put it all in a pan and bring it to a boil, when this happens switch off the heat and leave it alone, sitting in the milk.
In another pan add the finely chopped onion, curry powder, last bay leaf and butter. Bring to a medium heat to soften the onions without colouring, give it maybe 5-7 minutes.
Add the pinhead oats and coat with the melted butter.
Add in 340ml of hot stock and stir everything together. Keep the heat on medium-low and stir frequently to prevent sticking.
Wait for the oats to absorb most of the stock, this took me about 10 minutes on low, may be longer or shorter for you – keep a watch out.
Finely chop the parsley, quarter a lemon.
Peel the skin away from the fish and add it to the spiced oats in large chunks now that the stock has been absorbed and the oats have separated slightly (don’t worry, it will never separate like fluffy rice, but this is ok).
Turn off the heat, add a squish of lemon juice and the parsley, mix everything around, trying to go gently on the fish.
That’s it, top off with soft boiled eggs and dig in!

Book Review: New York Cult Recipes from Marc Grossman

New York Cult Recipes

Beautiful, ain’t it?  My Partner in Crime bought this on a whim after I “Ooohed” and “Aahhed” over it in Waterstones.  We’d nipped in for a cuppa cause we like to be surrounded by books (nerds!) and their cafe is near the cooking section (natch!).   I pulled a bunch of exciting looking tomes from the shelves and flipped through them while we slurped and did the crossword.  I don’t remember which ones I grabbed because they weren’t what I was looking for.  This one was the only book that really interested me.NY-cult-recipes-inside-cover

I can be a little bit of a food snob, I admit it, but at the end of it all food for me is a connector.  We all need to eat to live, let’s enjoy it and try to be a bit responsible with it.  It’s been a sociable event throughout the ages.  It brings people together in all kinds of ways and it can be a source of comfort when things go pear shaped.
So, for me, I like a book that has it’s feet firmly on the ground.  Engaging to read with ingredients I am able to purchase and can do so without breaking the bank or flying half way around the world – let’s face it that last bit is pretty much done for us, I have access to an amazing array of foodstuffs and whilst I realise it comes at a carbon price I am very grateful, so is my tummy!NY-cult-recipes-chapter-page

This book has only made it to bed once (I like to read food in bed, I know you do too) but even so it’s a gem that I just can’t stop flicking through, pawing at and seeking inspiration from.  Right now I don’t have a lot of spare time so the bagels will have to wait.  But there are many recipes which aren’t so time consuming and they’re really good solid recipes built on flavour bases with depth which makes all the difference in the end (it’s the “Brown food tastes better” theme).  NY-cult-recipes-hash-browns

The way it’s laid out is a little odd, and perhaps not entirely intuitive for me but that’s only because I don’t tend to eat donuts for breakfast or have a filled bagel for elevenses.  Doesn’t matter.  NY-cult-recipes-inside-back-cover

It’s also really interesting to see what counts as New York cult food from someone as passionate about food as they are about New York.  These recipes are life glue, they’ll fuel your body for day to day life and become comforting family favourites.  NY-cult-recipes-back-cover

I don’t buy a lot of cook books – they’re expensive and the internet is an amazing resource – BUT I am sooo glad this one came home.