Pearl Barley Pilaf with honey, roots and hazelnuts

At Poco we’re well known for our seasonal approach and our delicious meat. However my real passion is the seasonality of vegetables and the diversity that brings to the table as new ingredients become available to us as the months and weather change. While the evenings are still cool and us seasonal cooks are waiting for the late Spring vegetables to kick in, an exotic Pilaf is a comforting solution for dinner, that makes the most of our winter veg and store cupboard spices.

Pilaf is a delicious and aromatic Middle Eastern dish usually made of rice cooked in a rich broth of onions and spices. It is in the same family as an Indian pilau or biryani.  It’s great to cook at home because it’s so simple, a marvellous one-pot-wonder. I like my pilaf to be an elaborate and flavourful dish with lots of crushed nuts (any will do) and dried fruit.

I like to cook world food with a British twist. So instead of rice I’m using pearl barley a truly British grain perfect for replacing rice in sticky dishes like risotto, paella and pilaf. The barley grains soak up every ounce of flavour from the broth, and become bulging and unctuous.  Barley cooks in about 15 minutes so use it to replace rice in any recipe and follow the same instructions. However do be careful not to overcook it as it becomes fluffy and loses its bite or texture.

Waste not: If you’re lucky and have leftovers save them for a filling salad the next day. Freshen it up with some olive oil and fresh parsley.

Ingredients – Serves 6-8

500g mixed seasonal roots, celeriac and carrots are good at the moment.
3 springs of oregano
50g butter
2 large red onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic
1 heaped tsps coriander
1 heaped tsps cumin
150g pearl barley
Pinch of chilli flakes
50g olives, pitted
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon of honey
100g hazelnuts, shelled and broken
1 litre water

Directions  – preheat the oven to 180c

1) Cube then roast the roots in oil with the sprigs of oregano.

2) Saute the the onion in the butter till soft, add the spices and chilli flakes. Fry for 2 minutes.

3) Then add the roasted roots, olives, lemon zest, butter, salt, pepper and barley. Stir well to coat the grains and fry for a further 2 minutes, then add the water.

4) Bring to the boil, cover and put in the oven for 20 minutes till the barley is just cooked.

Serve hot with a sprinkle of toasted hazelnuts over the top, followed by some chopped parsley or coriander and a splash of lemon juice.

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