Meatless Monday: Barley Risotto with Caraway and Feta

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I know I seem to be banging on about Jerusalem a lot lately, but if you have flicked through its beautifully photographed pages, enjoyed its history and relished its ‘foreignness’ like I have, you find it hard to think of much else when dinner time rolls around. This risotto is another complete cracker of a recipe; utterly beautiful in its simplicity.

Barley is so underrated. It’s cheap, healthy and deliciously chewy making it oh so satisfying — the dangerous way carbs are, but fear not! It’s full of goodness.

Now, as delicious as barley is, this dish could skirt the line of becoming a big bowl of tomatoey grains, but then you add cheese. And caraway seeds, and olive oil, and oregano! The layers of flavor build so quickly, so simply, you almost don’t know what’s hit you.

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Chewy barley, silky and rich with tomatoes, topped with salty feta coated in toasted, crushed caraway seeds which caress the whole dish with a gentle spice and finally everything is lifted by fresh oregano which also brings us full circle back to the earthy barley.

Comfort, simplicity and beauty in a simple bowl of barley.

Bon appetit!

Recipe adapted from Jerusalem

1 cup Celery, finely chopped

1 Onion, finely chopped

4 cloves Garlic, crushed

Zest of 1 Lemon, in long strips

Thyme or Oregano

200g Pearl Barley, rinsed

800g Passata, Chopped Tomatoes or a mixture of both

1 block Feta, cubed

1 Tbsp Caraway Seeds, toasted and crushed in a pestle and mortar

2 Tbsp Olive Oil plus more for feta

1. Heat oil in a relatively deep pan over medium heat. Add onion and celery and sauté for 5-7 minutes until soft but not colored.

2. Add garlic, lemon and a good handful of chopped herbs. Then add the rinsed barley.

3. After another minute or two, add the tomatoes/passata.

4. Turn the heat down as low as it will go and cook, stirring occasionally, for 40-50 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed and the consistency is like risotto.

5. Meanwhile, gently toss the feta with the caraway seeds, more herbs and a glug of olive oil and set aside until needed.

6. To serve, spoon into bowls and top with the feta mixture.

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