Baby Artichokes & Pearl Barley in Vegetable Broth with Mint & Lemon
Little artichokes, little effort- lot's of flavor! That's my kind of meal on a cold and dreary evening- good, healthy and sensible food, still cool and different and interesting.
I could have prepared this with rice of course and turned it into a creamy and delicious risotto... but that would have meant butter and cheese and calories... but much more irritating than that- standing at the stove and stirring for 45 minutes! Which normally is indeed a joy... except tonight I was not really feeling well and this was the perfect solution. All of the yumminess, less of the calories and less of the work involved... yay!
It still needed a little prep-work with the artichokes- and it still needed between 45 and 60 minutes of simmering, but I was able to sit back and relax whilst that was happening. And sometimes in Winter- you need to have that kind of dish!
For 2 bowls I needed 2 baby artichokes, 1 shallot, a little lemon zest, a little fresh mint and parsley, some vegetable broth and 2 cups of pearl barley. Like I said- it didn't take much in the way of ingredients! But it tasted sooo rich and delicious all the same!
And before you begin to worry too much... I DID eat mine from a larger bowl than this! I just wanted to offer you good people the prettiest pictures I could- not to starve!
The simple prep-work began with topping and tailing the artichokes, cutting away 2/3rds of the leaves at least... which seems wasteful- but they ARE inedible! I then cut the artichokes into this slices, which made it really easy to remove the "choke" with 2 simple cuts, which let it fall straight out in a net, triangular section.
I also cut a couple of strips of lemon zest and finely chopped them, chopped up the stalks of the parsley, finely sliced the shallot- and put my pan onto the heat with a little of olive oil in it, ready to get started.
I fried the artichoke slices, shallot and parsley stems for 2-3 minutes, then added the pearl barley, which I stirred in and stir-fried until it had absorbed every last drop of oil.
I then added the hot, light vegetable broth, until everything was well covered, added a small handful of chopped mint, a good pinch of lemon zest and then let it gently bubble away for around half an hour.
After 30, I took a look to see if it needed any more broth adding, stirred it through, returned the lid and let it carry on gently simmering away.
Mine took around 50 minutes in all to get to the point that the barley was doubled in size, tender and chewy and delicious. Make sure that you have plenty of broth in there- add some, or simply some water, if you notice it drying up too much during cooking- this should be like a thick and creamy soup.
I added a last bit of finely chopped parsley and lemon zest- and then grabbed my bowl and got ready to enjoy!
Freshly ground pepper, a dash of olive oil and be ready to swoon after your first spoonful- and yes... make sure to choose a bigger bowl! You're going to like this!
Of course the vegetable broth brings plenty of flavor- but the artichokes give such a very strong flavor of their own that it's amazing! Add lemon and mint into the equation and you have a perfect Southern Italian- or Sicilian combination!
Simple- elegant, delicious... perfect!