Mushroom Orzotto

There is really no excuse for not updating my blog for so long!... except for the fact that I am back to a full-time job, making it VERY difficult to find a slot in my day to actually sit down and write!  But this weekend I sit all alone in my kitchen (which doubles-up as my office when I am writing) and I just had to update!

Over the past few weeks we have done a fair bit of travelling - food-focused trips of course! We've been to the Alsace region in France and Germany and if that is not enough incentive to write then what is?
The delicacies are just too many to mention, let alone try them all out (not that we didn't give it a try!) The food is so good and varied that you really wish you do have enough stomach space to sample it all, but alas I didn't.

Once we settled back home and into our normal routine, I must admit that I did do an effort to cook leaner meals to hopefully regain some health balance within oneself. Whether it worked or not is another post in itself!  
One of the detox recipes I used is this one, Mushroom Orzotto as it looks fatty enough for us not to go cold turkey!  The prepared dish is posh enough to make the to make it onto any dinner-party menu but it is healthy and quick enough to go on my after-work mid-week menu!

The first time I attempted an orzotto I must admin that I was slightly nervous about the consistency of the plate.  I was used to using barley in soups but did realise that the addition of barley makes the soup thicker and creamer. So here goes:

This is what you need to serve 4 as a starter or 2 very large plates.
200g barley (try not to buy the pearled type as that has the bran removed)
about 300g mushrooms
1 medium onion - finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano or thyme
1 tsp paprika

Start off by soaking the barley in enough water to cover it all plus an little bit extra on top.  Stir it slightly so as to allow any flakes to rise to the top and throw the water out.

In a pot or a wok, cook the onion in a little but of oil, butter or wine. Make sure that your onion is chopped very finely.  Next add about half the mushrooms which also need to be chopped finely.

Once the onions and the mushroom start to sizzle and cook, add the barley and a little bit of water.  If you cook the mushrooms enough, there is no need to use stock as the mushrooms will make the stock of the Orzotto.  

Keep on stirring the pot until all the water in absorbed, then add a bit more water.  This part of the recipe is similar to making a risotto.  Once you feel that the barley has softened enough, add the remaining mushrooms, the herbs and the paprika.  Season with salt and pepper if you wish.

The cooking time should be around 25 to 30 minutes.  Orzotto is not as delicate as risotto and will not overcook as quickly making it ideal for your dinner parties.  Always make sure to add the water in small doses and to taste the barley to check whether it is cooked or not.  It should be soft on the outside but with a slight bite at the end.

For the difference between pearled barley and barley click here 

New ....2011

Starting the new year must mean new things.

Lots of new things happening this week (or since the beginning of 2011) First was my new start date.... ever changing and ever being pushed back. But I sort of got used to it now... might be surprised when I actually walk through the door!

On the internet side, I just discovered the new Google Reader and it's absolutely great if you, like me follow a few blogs.  You get the latest blog or website posts on one page and you can scroll down and choose which to read further.  All you will need to do is to "follow" or "subscribe" to the blog or site and all your pages will be displayed on your reader front page.
There was an interesting post on one of the blogs about Tiramisu which I must admit I have become a big fan of! Always liked the dessert but now (possibly due to an older age stated on my new ID card) I look for a hit of coffee in my sweets.

Another new gastro discovery this week was a chocolate truffle filled with pepper - absolutely divine.  Even though I didn't know what I was eating at the time, the pepper just hits the sides of your mouth and turns a tiny truffle into a new experience.

Lomo - Spanish cold cut is yet another new discovery.  There is a tiny market which sets up round the corner from my house which is now catering for it's new Spanish customers and this lomo is one of the new items on sale.  Delicious and very low in fat, fit in perfectly with my spread of parma (specially dedicated to my foodie friend) and cooked hams.

But if you are reading this post for the recipe, click here for my Healthy Options if you are trying to curb the fats and move onto healthier meals.  If you have decided that detox or January healthy eating is a thing of the past, why not try this super easy tea-time snack.

Here are my baked doughnuts.  They are delicious once filled with jam or nutella but sadly they will not keep for the following day.  If you do have any left-overs, I suggest that you heat it in the micro-wave for about 15 seconds until they are softened slightly.

Here is what you need:
500g plain flour preferably 00
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp sunflower oil
300ml warm milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
11g dried yeast

Place the sifted flour and sugar in a large bowl and stir using a knife.  Next add the salt on one side of the bowl and the yeast into the other corner of the bowl.  In another bowl, place the warm milk and stir in the vanilla, oil and egg.

Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and using the knife once again stir into a dough.

Leave the dough in the bowl and allow it to rise for about 1 hour until it has doubled in size.  Once the hour is up, topple the dough over a floured surface and shape into tiny balls and place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Next turn on the oven on to 200C and give the doughnuts another 30 minutes to settle into their shapes.

Once you are ready to bake, pop the tray into the oven and turn the heat down to 180C.  Bake the doughnuts until they are a pale golden brown.

Take the doughnuts out of the oven and allow them to cool for about 10minutes before filling.  To fill your doughnuts with jam or nutella, fill a piping bag with your choice and using the nozzle to pierce into the doughnut squeeze your sauce into the doughnut until the piping bags starts coming off the doughnut.  This means that the doughnut is filled enough in the centre.

Serve immediately.