Pearls of Wisdom

I’ve been a fan of the Spooning with Rosie cookbook ever since the discovery of her seeded soda bread.  Unfortunately, I have now banged on about said bread so often it accompanies Berlin in the ‘list of topics Eve is not allowed to talk about’. I tried out another one of Rosie’s recipes on Friday night and I must say this tomato and ricotta risotto is marvellous. It’s a winter filler but not too bloating (for those still kidding themselves 2012 is THE year to reach peak physical form) because it uses pearl barley as opposed to risotto rice.  Normally pearl barley is one of those ingredients kept at the back of the cupboard, where probably most of it has spilt out into little piles along with stray sultanas. I had never used it for anything other than bulking out soups before but it works really well and so I wholeheartedly recommend exploring the depths of your store cupboard.

This dish has yet to make the aforementioned list but I figured I should probably tell you guys about it as I’m not one for keeping secrets. Here are reasons why it is so good: firstly, it is cheap, in keeping with my £20 a week goal. Secondly, it’s nutritionally balanced and low GI. Thirdly, it’s one of those dishes where you honestly don’t want meat to make it better, a rare occasion. Fourthly, you may think on first reading the recipe that it’s a bit faffy but it’s actually not as faffy as it seems. Fifthly, it needs much less attention than a conventional risotto and finally, it’s absolutely delicious and moreish and I wish I had some more leftovers so if you make this please can I have some thank you I’ll do the washing up I promise ok great.

Tomato and Ricotta Pearl Barley Risotto (adapted from Spooning with Rosie)

serves 3-4

500g ripe fresh tomatoes

1l chicken/vegetable stock

1 large onion

4 cloves garlic (or 3 if they’re really big)

250g pearl barley

125g ricotta

1 tspn balsamic vinegar

½ tspn caster sugar

½ tspn dried thyme (optional)

pinch of smoked paprika (optional)

2 tbspn olive oil

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Slice the tomatoes.
  • Put in a saucepan with the stock, bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 15 mins.
  • Meanwhile, finely chop the onions and garlic.
  • Take off the heat. Blend with a hand schjudger thing.
  • Strain through a sieve to get rid of skin and pips.
  • To this soupy wonder add the vinegar and sugar.
  • Gently fry the onions in the normal olive oil and when they have gone clearish, add the garlic for 1 minute before adding the pearl barley.
  • Give it a good stir so everything is coated in the oil and then add the tomatoey stock.
  • Add thyme and paprika if desired, stir, bring to a gently simmer and leave for 45 mins.
  • Towards the end of this time it is a good idea to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t stick to the pan, but other than that you have yourself the perfect amount of time to catch a sitcom re-run and put some plates in the oven to warm.
  • Just before serving, season to taste, although it probably won’t need much.
  • To serve, plate up the risotto, add chunks of ricotta and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I did mine with a rocket and Parmesan salad to give it a bit of green, which went very nicely even if I do say so myself, which I do.


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