This time of year demands big, warming bowls of comforting deliciousness. Or at least, it does if you’re anything like me. I can’t be the only person who feels permanently cold from about October through till March, can I?
To make matters worse, our central heating boiler recently packed up, and for a week we were without any central heating at all. Fortunately we still had hot water, a roaring wood-fire, and a selection of electric heaters that we could move from room to room, but it was still less than ideal. But every problem is an opportunity right? Time to make all kinds of warming delicious dishes that require significant spells in a hot oven! At least the kitchen was kept roasty-toasty 🙂
I always find barley-based dishes to be particularly filling and comforting in cold weather, so I adapted my baked risotto recipe to use barley instead of rice. Kipper still needs persuading to eat mushrooms, so to avoid any mealtime ‘discussions’ I used butternut squash as the main vegetable. And since she’s currently obsessed with cinnamon (no, I have no idea) I used it to spice up the barley risotto, along with a few other herbs and seasonings. Oh, and quite a lot of garlic. Mmm.
This baked barley risotto was super-easy to assemble, and it kept us all delightfully warm – while it was cooking, while we were eating it, and for a while afterwards too. I reheated the leftovers with a cupful of vegetable stock next day to make a thick and delicious barley soup. Two meals for the price of one!
And since there’s at least another two months of cold weather left, I’ll have plenty of opportunities to make this again!
Makes four generous portions of baked barley risotto with butternut squash.
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- 1 medium butternut squash
- 1 bulb of garlic, separated into cloves
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 0.5 tsp cinnamon
- 0.5 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 250g pearl barley
- 750ml hot vegetable stock
- 1tsbp tamari or soya sauce
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Peel the squash and remove the seeds. Cut the flesh into 2cm cubes.
- Peel the garlic cloves and crush two of them. Reserve the rest.
- In a large, ovenproof pot, heat the olive oil and saute the cubed squash with the crushed garlic, cinnamon, smoked paprika, fennel seeds and thyme for 5-10 minutes, until the squash starts to soften and colour and the spices become fragrant.
- Add the pearl barley and stir well to coat with the oil.
- Stir in the stock, the reserved garlic cloves (whole), and the tamari or soya sauce. Mix well and bring to a simmer.
- Cover the pot with a lid, remove from the heat and transfer to the preheated oven. Bake at 180C for around 1 hour.
- Remove from the oven and stir well. The barley should be soft and all the stock absorbed. If the risotto seems a little dry, stir in some hot water or stock to achieve your desired consistency.
- Serve hot!
- The barley risotto is delicious as is, but can also be sprinkled with some grated cheese when serving.