Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Peppers & Pearls

Orzo con Zucchine Rotonde, Peperoni e Pancetta
Pearl Barley with Round Zucchini, Red Peppers, Bacon & Thyme
It had been a while since I made a dish with barley- so decided to do just that tonight. I had one of those grapefruit-sized round zucchini's that needed to be used up too. So, already my options were beginning to look vegetarian again, being as the zucchini was a little too large for a side dish. And so a vegetarian dish it was- with bacon of course and a hint of Sambuca for good measure!

This was the first time for me, that I prepared one of those little, round, zucchini squashes- but most probably not the last! I found it to be juicier and more flavorful than the regular zucchini, whilst not becoming too soggy and soft during cooking... what's not to like?!!

I started off by frying up a handful of bacon bits till they became crispy- these were for my garnish and finishing touch later, so I took them out of the pan and set them aside. Next came the zucchini, which I sliced thinly and fried until golden brown in the same frying pan, using the remaining bacon fat to add more flavor. I added chopped garlic, a hint of chili and a couple of sprigs of thyme, and made sure to carefully flip the zucchini slices and get them nice and brown. Don't over-fill the frying pan for best results- it will take a while longer this way, but it is well worth it!

In the meantime, I started preparing the barley, which I had soaked for 30 minutes prior to starting. I drained it and lightly toasted it in my saucepan with some finely chopped onion and garlic, with a little finely chopped celery leaf- just in order to start the cooking process. I then deglazed the pan with a splash of Sambuca and added enough boiling water to cover it. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and a hint of nutmeg and put it onto a low simmer with the lid on.
After finishing the zucchini, I did the same with the finely sliced red pepper, frying it with garlic and bacon until it began to brown. You will find that the bacon browns-off before the peppers are ready- so add a little boiling water to the pan and keep up the heat until it evaporates away, adding a pinch of sugar and stirring all the time. This will give the peppers a wonderful hint of caramel flavor.
Once the peppers are finished, chop a spring onion finely, along with a handful of parsley and a few sprigs of thyme and add these to the barley. Add a hint of olive oil to give the barley a light glaze and you are ready to serve! 
Layer the peppers, zucchini and barley and sprinkle with the crispy bacon bits. Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh thyme and a light squeeze of lemon juice- and if you are feeling daring, a great thing to do is to pour a little Sambuca into a ladle, heat it up over one of your burners, ignite it and pour it over your dish to flambé it and give it an extra hint of anise flavor... fantastic!


  1. I have never cooked with barley-not sure if I have even tasted it. Your preparation of that piece of this dish is something I might try. Then I will go from that point. Thanks for sharing-this dish makes for a colorful presentation.

  2. Hi Tina- thanks for writing! I have not been cooking with barley for long myself- if find it to be nice, with a slightly "nutty" flavor- you just have to make sure to season it well! I treat it as a risotto-type ingredient with more bite to it. It's definitely not for everyone, but I like the "old fashioned" flavor it has... hope you enjoy!

  3. Hi! I was in my office traing to find a nice recepy for my dinner tonight and I found your blog. in the beginning I was captured mainly by pictures, then I started reading. I´d have never imagined that the author was a guy! and... let me say... your name doesn´t sound german at all... maybe italian? I´m also in Germany, at the moment, and I have lots of problems to find what I´m looking for in the supermarket. For example... can you tell me how it´s called here the filo pasta? I´m only able to find baguette or pizza teig...
    However... I really like your blog! For sure I´ll steal some ideas!

  4. Dear Anonymous- thanks for the nice comments! Yes, I am very much a guy and I am indeed Italian- Sicilian to be precise. Filo Pastry is known also as "Filoteig" over here, or "Brik" or "Strudelteig"- you would be better advised to look at a Turkish store though as most German Supermarkets only have puff pastry or pizza dough. Steal away but please pass on the word about the blog!

  5. I´m also italian, at the moment in the east part of Germany. Thanks for the suggestions, I´ll go for sure to have a look in the arabic shop here. and for the rest, don´t worry, already 2 grls in my office saved the link of your blog... the pictures are too nice! And please go on with other amazing recepies :)

  6. Thank You so much! I am glad you are enjoying it! And there is plenty more to come!