Thursday, 23 April 2009

For England and St George!

In honour of St George, I’ve written a lovely English recipe. I’ve called it a pottage, but it’s quite close to a risotto if I’m honest! However it’s an English day today, (although the Romans did influence our culinary heritage a great deal) so I’m going to break a rule or two.

Another rule I am taking enormous delight in breaking is the metric one. I’m an Imperial bird, always have been and always will be. I usually convert the measurements, because I have to and I don’t want to close the doors on metric cooks. But today if feels so good to be a little bit naughty and do what I want.
You’re just lucky I’m not using pecks and gills!

Nettles are easy to find (no problem in my garden!), but only pick the top leaves as they are young and not so stringy. I’m lucky to have wild garlic in my garden, straight to hand outside my kitchen, but you can usually find it in damp woodland – just be careful where you pick it and please make sure you have the right plant
(see my photo). If you can’t find any, replace with lots of fresh chives and some leaf spinach or sorrel.

Pearl Barley, reminiscent in winter stew makes a delicious and nutritious alternative to risotto rice and just feels that little more English. A pottage is a thick soup full of vegetables and often meat or bones and it was generally thickened with a grain of some description – hence my use of the term today.

Enjoy this dish and let’s hear it for old St George. Love him, what WAS he thinking with that Dragon!

Wild Garlic and Nettle Pearl Barley Pottage
Lotte Duncan 2009

Serves 2

1oz butter
1 small leek – sliced, including the green bit
4oz pearl barley
¼ pint dry cider
1 ½ pints hot vegetable stock
15 nettle tops (pick the top five leaves with gloves on!) - slice the leaves only
A large handful of wild garlic leaves - sliced
2oz freshly grated parmesan or a hard English cheese like Spenwood
1 heaped tablespoon of crème fraiche
White wild garlic flowers to sprinkle
Salt and Pepper

1. Melt the butter in a large deep frying pan and add the leek. Cook gently over a low heat for a couple of minutes. Add the pearl barley and stir into the butter and cook for another minute.
2. Add the cider, turn the heat up and cook rapidly for 1 minute.
3. Now, reduce the heat again and slowly add the vegetable stock, ladle by ladle stirring all the time until it has been soaked in by the pearly barley. This can take up to 40 minutes. (So, enough time to consume a large glass of wine!) You want the barley to be creamy and soft, but still with a slight bite to it.
4. Now stir in the nettle and wild garlic leaves until they have wilted well. You especially want the nettle to wilt because this removes the sting!
5. Add half the parmesan and the crème fraiche. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Serve. Sprinkle the rest of the parmesan on top and then decorate with the wild garlic flowers.

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