Orzotto has been a staple in my recipe head since I was a university student. It’s staggeringly cheap to cook, and practically idiot-proof. There’s because no great secret to producing a great orzotto. Unlike its kissing cousin the risotto, it does not demand or even need dedicated wrist action or thirty minutes close nurturing over the stove. You just add the hot liquid to the grains, mix it in and simmer away, pausing every so often when you pass the cooker to give it a stir and check it’s not catching.
That’s because an orzotto is made with barley, a grain that holds up a lot better to liquid than risotto rice. The pay off is that you lost the unctuous creaminess of a risotto, but what you get in return is a lovely resisting quality to the grain which, whilst still softened, holds its shape.
The dish is prepared in exactly the same way as a risotto: finely chop shallots or white onion, sweat them in a mixture of olive oil and butter, and add a generous handful of chopped mushrooms once the onions are nearly cooked. When the mushrooms have softened, add the grains, stir ’till they absorb the fat, then add a splash of alcohol: I used Manzanilla sherry that we had in the fridge – white wine would do just as well. Or Madeira. (Mmm)
Cook for a few minutes – it won’t absorb the liquid in the same way that risotto rice would, then pour in boiling vegetable stock to just cover the grains. Keep an eye on it, and when the liquid is absorbed check the consistency of the grains and our in some more stock if they aren’t cooked.
Whilst the barley is cooking, saute two big handfuls of mushrooms slowly in garlic and butter. (If you do it too quickly, then you’ll drive off all the lovely cooking juices which you want to add to the orzotto.)
The barley needs about thirty minutes – it’s done when the grains are soft. If there is still too much liquid, turn up the heat and boil it off. Once it’s cooked, add half the mushrooms & all the juices to the orzotto and stir in. Chck the seasoning: you’ll want to add plenty of Maldon salt & freshly ground black pepper.
Plate it up, adding the rest of the mushrooms as a garnish and then flick over some chopped flat leaf parsley.
If you fear the mushroom, then you can just leave them out, and replace the mushrooms with grated parmesan.
Shallots or white onion
White wine or sherry or Madeira (If making a cheese version, I’d stick to white wine)
Vegetable stock ( I like Marigold Vegetable Bouillon)
Maldon Salt & Black pepper
Flat leaf parsley