Monday, 7 October 2013

Real Slow Food

Orzo Perlato & Borlotti
Pearl Barley & Borlotti Beans

Whilst fast-food is something that I never eat, I do like to make quick, easy, fun and tasty meals as you all know. And usually I manage to do quite well. But this evening, ladies and gentlefolk, it was not just a simple and down-to-earth dish that I made... it turned out to be a real slow-food dish too!

I love pearl barley and its firm and chewy consistency and one of the good things about it is that it is hard to over-cook and that it still retains its bite even after a prolonged cooking time. I would say that 45 minutes is a good cooking time for barley and as I had read that borlotti beans only take that long when they are fresh, I thought it would be a great combination...

... the flavor of course WAS great, but those lovely little speckled beans ended up taking almost 1 hour and 45 minutes, rather than the 45 that the recipes say they take! Which of course is not the end of the world... I just wished I had been prepared for the matter! Stop grinning! At least you have been warned by me! So I may as well share how I made it now anyway... because fortunately it was worth the wait!

I started off this one, nice, large bowl full by finely dicing half of a carrot, 1 small parsnip, 1 small onion, 1 small clove of garlic, about 2" of leek and a small piece of bacon (about 1 handful). These all went into a saucepan at a relatively high heat until the bacon began to sizzle and the fat that was in it coated all of the other ingredients. 

Once everything was nicely coated and just beginning to brown, I added the barley- 3 handfuls and beans, 2 handfuls and stirred them in too. I seasoned with salt, pepper and a little cayenne and added finely chopped parsley, rosemary and marjoram. Once these were stirred-in, I added a couple of small bay leaves, then deglazed the saucepan with boiling water and carried on stirring to bring up all of the good flavors from the bottom of the pan.

I made sure everything was well covered, by at least 1" in water, then reduced the heat to as gentle simmer. 45 minutes later, the barley was almost ok... but the beans were still pretty raw! Ugh! What to do?

What I did was that I added 7-8 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters, I added a pinch of sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar, stirred this all together and let the saucepan bubble away at a low simmer. For 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, we were slowly getting there, but not quite! Most of the water had of course been absorbed by now, so I topped up the broth again and let it carry on for 20 more minutes... making it around 1 1/2 hrs of boiling in all to get things well cooked and delicious! A rule of thumb is that the beans should change color from burgundy/red to a more brownish tone by the time they are done.

I may well use canned beans next time I make it- haha... but let me tell you- this was time well spent as the flavor was delicious! I served it up with a sprinkle of parsley and some freshly ground pepper, a last drizzle of olive oil and a splash of green Tabasco. So if you don't use beans in a can for this one, be prepared to wait patiently... but also be prepared to enjoy!

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