Hearty, warming, and bright pink – what more could you ask for! This cheap and cheerful Autumn/Winter supper is a classic flavour pairing, and yet something a little bit different; it's also a one-pot-wonder and a total doddle to make.
I added some raspberry balsamic reduction to the dish on a whim, and it was brilliant, the tartness and tang cutting through the rich goat’s cheese and sweet beetroot perfectly. If you can get your hands on some do, otherwise plain balsamic reduction, homemade or bought, will work perfectly.
pearl barley (approximately 30g per person)
raw beetroot (approximately 1 medium beetroot per person)
1 shallot or ½ brown onion
1 clove of garlic
goat’s cheese (approximately ¼ log per person)
winter purslane, or spinach (approximately 1 generous handful per person)
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme
butter or cooking oil
a splash of white wine (optional)
salt & pepper
extra virgin olive oil or walnut oil
toasted pine nuts
Soak the pearl barley in just-boiled water for 10 minutes, before draining and rinsing.
Place the soaked pearl barley into a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. I like to add a teaspoon of bouillon powder to this cooking water. Bring to the boil, and gently simmer for 20 minutes. (I know I’m a broken record on this one, but cooking a little extra here for salads later in the week rarely goes amiss!)
Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients: peel the beetroot and rinse well, then chop into little cubes, no bigger than 1cm by 1cm; finely dice the shallot or brown onion; strip the thyme and rosemary from the stalks and chop; mince or very finely chop the garlic; toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan for about 4 minutes until golden.
After the pearl barley has simmered for 20 minutes, drain and rinse.
Heat two tablespoons of oil, or butter in the saucepan (no need to wash up, just make sure it’s dry!). Add the shallot or onion, the garlic, and the herbs. Sweat this gently for 5 minutes until translucent.
Now add the diced raw beetroot. Season with salt and pepper, and continue cooking over a medium heat for a further 5 minutes. Put the lid on for a bit to allow things to steam as well as sauté.
If you have an open bottle of white wine to hand, add a few tablespoons of wine to the cooking beetroot; totally not essential though, so no need to open a fresh bottle!
Now add the cooked pearl barley and the crumbled goat’s cheese, as well as a splash of hot water or hot vegetable stock. Stir to encourage the goat’s cheese to melt. The texture should be that of a lovely, oozy risotto, so add or evaporate the liquid accordingly.
Taste to check the seasoning.
Finally, stir in the winter purslane or spinach if you prefer this to be wilted, or simply scatter it over the plates. Spoon the pearl barley onto the plates, garnishing with some thyme leaves, a drizzle of your favourite oil, a drizzle of balsamic glaze, and a scatter of pine nuts.
Forks at the ready! Go!