This Kale & Squash Pearl Barley Risotto is proper winter-warmer comfort food…. not refined restaurant-food by any stretch, but simple and hearty home-cooked grub that will fill you up and warm you through on a chilly evening. Be warned that pearl barley doubles in size during cooking, so what looks like a measly saucepan of ingredients becomes huge portions + leftovers for lunch in the blink of an eye.
My main reason for cooking this today was to do yet another road-test of my newest swoon-worthy kitchen gadget that has very quickly become my first port of call for pretty much every kitchen task…. the Optimum ThermoCook Professional Cooking Assistant.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I often use my ThermoCook for three meals a day….
Breakfasts – automatic porridge function, which gently heats & stirs to create the creamiest porridge whilst you get on with other things; automatic smoothie function which whizzes pretty much anything into a velvety smoothie; gently cooked scrambled eggs on the ‘stir’ function, easy yoghurt-making function;
Lunches – quick soup function – ie. raw veg into jug, hot blended soup 20 minutes later; creamy hummus on the ‘blend’ function; automatic bread dough function to knead then prove at a warm temperature;
Dinners – fabulously creamy risotto that you can leave alone to cook whilst auto-stirring; cook and blend perfect sauces; steam vegetables;boil pasta; slow-cook and auto-stir chillis, curries and stews; cook perfect rice; knead and prove pizza dough;
Desserts – fabulous and healthy ice cream from frozen fruits; sorbets; custard; mousse; cakes and scones; perfect pancake batter; whisked egg whites for meringue; perfectly whipped cream; fruit compotes, purées and sauces;
PLUS…. super-healthy baby food steamed and then puréed all in the same jug, (every new parent’s dream!); crushed ice for cocktails or slushies; juices; milkshakes; perfect hot chocolate; homemade pesto, dukkah or tzatziki; blitzed and kneaded biscuit and cookie dough; precision-temperature jam and preserve making; and SO much more!
Sorry that’s a very long list isn’t it, (with hindsight it would have been simpler to list what it doesn’t do… wash up, set the table, change nappies)…. but can you see why I love it?!? This gadget is like having your very own sous-chef in the kitchen with you. No, in fact it is like having your very own head chef! Just tell it what you want, pop the raw ingredients in the jug, go and put your feet up, (or a load of washing on, more likely!), and come back when dinner’s ready.
The Optimum ThermoCook comes with a recipe book packed with ideas. Like any new gadget, it takes a few days to get the hang of, but I found the best way to do this was just to get on and use it – try out 4 or 5 different recipes from the book and then you’ll be all set to do your own thing and experiment.
The manufacturers are so confident that you’ll love it that you can give it a 30-day trial, and return it afterwards if you want, (but you won’t!).
This Pearl Barley Risotto is a perfect example of the speedy meals I’ve been rustling up in my ThermoCook. The print-able recipe directly below is the ‘old school’ version using a saucepan on the hob, but directly below are instructions to make this in a ThermoCook.
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
- 600 g butternut squash peeled and chopped into 1cm chunks
- 250 g pearl barley
- 150 ml white wine
- 750 ml vegetable stock
- 100 g curly kale stalks removed
- salt & pepper
- 1 tbsp thyme leaves
- zest of 1 lemon
- handful pine nuts toasted in a dry frying pan for a minute or two
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, and cook the onion and garlic for 5 minutes until softened. Add the butternut squash, and cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Add the pearl barley and white wine to the pan, turn up the heat and cook for 3 minutes until most of the wine has cooked away.
- Add the stock, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the curly kale, and cook for a further 5 minutes until the pearl barley is tender, but still a little chewy. Remove from the heat, stir through the thyme and lemon zest, then divide between bowls and scatter with the pine nuts to serve.
OR to make in an Optimum ThermoCook:
- Add oil, onion and garlic to the jug, and set to SAUTÉ which will run for 5 minutes.
- Add the squash, and run the SAUTÉ function again, pausing after 2 minutes to add the pearl barley and wine. Resume for the remaining 3 minutes.
- Add the stock, and set to the STIR function for 30 minutes, reducing the temperature to Level 7 after a few minutes. Pause after 25 minutes to add the kale, then resume for the last 5 minutes.
- Stir through the lemon zest & thyme, and serve scattered with pine nuts.
What are your ‘desert island’ kitchen gadgets that you couldn’t be without, and have transformed your cooking?
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There are plenty of similarly quick and easy recipes in my new book, ‘Vegan in 15‘*. Hop over to Amazon for a look. Thanks for your support!
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