Well, technically, it is not a risotto. I will give you that. Neither it has rice, nor it is sprinkled with cheese. Yet, it is as creamy and flavorful. The ancient grain barley, is full of complex carbohydrates, such as starch and cellulose. Cellulose is an important dietary fiber and starch makes it a power-pack of energy. A moderate portion goes a long way. While for a meal for two, I usually take 1.5 or 2 cups of rice, only a cupful would suffice with the barley. As far as you are not gluten-intolerant, barley makes a good addition to your repertoire of staple grains.
Today’s barley risotto is, in fact, a no-recipe kind. I simply, put all the ingredients together, pressure-cooked for 15 minutes…and it is ready to be served. Perfect as a quick lunch on weekdays.
TOMATO BARLEY RISOTTO
1 cup pearl barley
2 cups of tomato puree
1-2 bay leaves
1 piece of cinnamon
3-4 cloves/ black pepper
1-2 dried red chilli pepper
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon dried basel
1 teaspoon sumac powder (optional)
Salt to taste
A dash of olive oil
1 cup vegetable stock or water
- Simply mix everything together in a pot/ pressure cooker. Cover/ apply pressure. Cook till barley is done (15 minutes in pressure cooker, a bit more in covered pot).
- Enjoy with a side of any vegetable stir fry!
I have fond memories of this recipe. Now available all year round, green peas were once rather seasonal in India during my childhood. So the advent of winter would mean that Aai would prepare alu matar, or what we called as mataar chi rassa bhaji. Probably of north-Indian origin, this is a household version, which is lighter and vegan. It does not use ghee or dairy cream and instead relies on the slow simmering of starchy potatoes in the tomato-onion gravy for its richness.
Since, it goes well both with rice and chapati bread, it would often star in the menu on special occasions, especially the ones which required a vegetarian feast. Those big chunks of potato and green peas in tangy gravy would be as decadent and delicious as any meat curry to me.
ALU MATAR: PEAS-TOMATO-POTATO GRAVY
2-3 cups of fresh green peas
4 small or 2 big potatoes
1 medium sized onion
1-2 tbspoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves
2 small green chillies
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon crushed fenugreek seeds
1-2 teaspoon coriander powder
1 tbspoon curry powder
A pinch or two of garam masala
Salt to taste
2-3 cups of water
1-2 teaspoon of sumac (optional; my own touch to the original recipe for an additional tang)
- Heat oil in a skillet. Fry crushed fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, thinly chopped garlic and chillies over it.
- Add turmeric powder and chopped onion over it.
- Once onion turn translucent, add potato chunks, salt, and curry powder over it. Mix properly to coat the potatoes in onion and spices. Cover and let the potatoes soften in the steam.
- Meanwhile, make a puree of tomatoes and add it to the skillet, with some more water. Let everything simmer slowly till the tomato-onion gravy thickens like a homogeneous sauce and potatoes cook completely.
- After potatoes are done, add the green peas. Sprinkle garam masala and sumac powder, at this stage. Cover and let cook further till peas are cooked.
- Adjust and water and salt to your liking at this stage. If you add water, let everything come to boil again, and then take off the heat.
Today, I enjoyed it with brown rice, but as noted earlier it would be perfect with any bread/ flatbread as well. I even remember sneaking its leftover out of fridge, and having it as chunky soup in a bowl to satisfy my late afternoon cravings… So that’s another way to have it 🙂