I was filled with excitement when I opened this book and tried to decide upon the first recipe to try from the newest addition to my shelf - Nigelissima by Nigella Lawson. You may have already guessed from the number of her cookbooks on my shelf that I adore her, even though I have to admit that I have had some howlers over the past few years with recipes that have failed to meet my expectations upon reaching the dinner table.
The series accompanying this book is excellent and after having seen Nigella cook this recipe during episode 2 that I decided to give it a try. There was only one sticking point, Andrew was coming home from University for the weekend. His first home visit since going away. I had promised him roast chicken. One of his favourite meals - he would not be thrilled at the prospect of barley as a substitute for roast potatoes. Not to be deterred I continued on regardless.
The meal itself in typical Nigella fashion was dead simple. I had taken the chicken out of the fridge a couple of hours before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature and proceeded to stuff it with an onion instead of the prescribed lemon as Mike is not very fond of them. It was at this point I discovered that I didn't have any rosemary - horror! I was sure I had some in the fridge but no matter how hard I looked it was nowhere to be found. I did have some fresh thyme so I stuffed the carcass with that instead. The rest of the vegetables were very easy to prepare and I put the whole thing into the oven whilst I prepared the orzotto.
I have only used barley previously in stews and this is the first time I have tried to make anything of this nature. I am fond of Milanese Risotto, and cook it regularly, this was very similar with the addition of barley instead of rice. I was wiling to give it a go but was unsure how the menfolk of my life would take to it. The instructions were again very straightforward and it all came together with the minimum of effort.
I really enjoyed it and what's more so did the boys, though I have to confess that Andrew would still choose a traditional roast dinner with piles and piles of roast potatoes given the choice. The barley in the Orzotto reminded me a little of tapioca but was still tasty enough. I personally prefer the more traditional rice but I would certainly give it another try to see if I could improve on my efforts. The vegetables were soft and sweet and an excellent accompaniment to the meal. It made such a nice change not having to make any gravy. A good effort indeed and the book shows potential.