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More Nigella recipes

Saffron Orzotto

by . Featured in NIGELLISSIMA
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Introduction

I regard this orzotto - think risotto, only made with barley, orzo in Italian - as a potato substitute, that's to say as a starchy accompaniment to a roast chicken or ham or bowl of meatballs and any number of stews.

It's incredibly simple to make, since, unlike risotto, there is almost no stirring involved, and it can easily be done ahead of time. On reheating, you may want to add a little more liquid first, and perhaps - to stir through at the end with the Parmesan - a couple of spoonfuls of mascarpone. In fact, if you would like a creamier texture, I suggest you add the mascarpone first time around.

This dish seems to win everyone over. It's just so charming to look at, as well as addictive to eat. The saffron-soused grains of barley positively ooze sunniness. I leave you with this thought: in my house there is a faction that insists on eating this with ultra-thin rashers of pancetta or bacon, fried to a crisp, crumbled on top.

If you don’t have garlic infused oil, you can use regular olive oil instead, and add a clove or two of minced garlic to the pan once the shallot has softened.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

I regard this orzotto - think risotto, only made with barley, orzo in Italian - as a potato substitute, that's to say as a starchy accompaniment to a roast chicken or ham or bowl of meatballs and any number of stews.

It's incredibly simple to make, since, unlike risotto, there is almost no stirring involved, and it can easily be done ahead of time. On reheating, you may want to add a little more liquid first, and perhaps - to stir through at the end with the Parmesan - a couple of spoonfuls of mascarpone. In fact, if you would like a creamier texture, I suggest you add the mascarpone first time around.

This dish seems to win everyone over. It's just so charming to look at, as well as addictive to eat. The saffron-soused grains of barley positively ooze sunniness. I leave you with this thought: in my house there is a faction that insists on eating this with ultra-thin rashers of pancetta or bacon, fried to a crisp, crumbled on top.

If you don’t have garlic infused oil, you can use regular olive oil instead, and add a clove or two of minced garlic to the pan once the shallot has softened.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Image of Nigella's Saffron Orzotto
Photo by Petrina Tinslay

Ingredients

Serves: 4 as a side

Metric Cups
  • 750 millilitres weak chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron strands
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons garlic infused olive oil (see Intro)
  • 1 banana shallot (peeled and finely chopped)
  • 250 grams pearl barley
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons dry white vermouth or white wine
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons grated Parmesan (see Additional Information below)
  • salt (to taste)
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • 2 - 3 x 15ml tablespoons mascarpone cheese (optional)
  • 3 cups weak chicken broth or vegetable stock
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron strands
  • 2 tablespoons garlic flavored oil (see Intro)
  • 1 banana shallot (peeled and finely chopped)
  • 1½ cups pearl barley
  • 2 tablespoons dry white vermouth or white wine
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan (see Additional Information below)
  • salt (to taste)
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese (optional)

Method

  1. First, make up the stock in a jug. (I don't use homemade, but just add good stock concentrate or bouillon powder to boiling water). And use slightly less stock concentrate or powder to water than advised on the packet, to ensure that the saltiness is kept at bay. Add the saffron, stir, and set aside for a moment.
  2. In a shallow, heavy-based pan or flameproof casserole, about 26cm /10in diameter and - importantly - that has a lid, warm the garlic oil over a medium-low heat, then add the chopped shallot and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring. You don't want this to colour. If using an onion instead of a shallot, you may need to cook it for nearer 5 minutes.
  3. Turn up the heat and add the barley, stirring it in the hot pan for a minute, then add the vermouth or wine and stir again.
  4. Add the hot saffron stock, clamp the lid on, then turn the heat down to low and let the orzotto simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, or until the barley is cooked through and tender and most of the liquid absorbed. Do add a little extra boiling water if the liquid is absorbed before the barley is tender enough. Remove the lid, stir and take the pan off the heat; if you wanted, you could let it cool now, cover, refrigerate and leave it for a day or two. Otherwise, stir in the Parmesan and season to taste. Should you fancy adding mascarpone, now would be the time to do it.
  1. First, make up the stock in a jug. (I don't use homemade, but just add good stock concentrate or bouillon powder to boiling water). And use slightly less stock concentrate or powder to water than advised on the packet, to ensure that the saltiness is kept at bay. Add the saffron, stir, and set aside for a moment.
  2. In a shallow, heavy-based pan or flameproof casserole, about 26cm /10in diameter and - importantly - that has a lid, warm the garlic oil over a medium-low heat, then add the chopped shallot and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring. You don't want this to colour. If using an onion instead of a shallot, you may need to cook it for nearer 5 minutes.
  3. Turn up the heat and add the barley, stirring it in the hot pan for a minute, then add the vermouth or wine and stir again.
  4. Add the hot saffron stock, clamp the lid on, then turn the heat down to low and let the orzotto simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, or until the barley is cooked through and tender and most of the liquid absorbed. Do add a little extra boiling water if the liquid is absorbed before the barley is tender enough. Remove the lid, stir and take the pan off the heat; if you wanted, you could let it cool now, cover, refrigerate and leave it for a day or two. Otherwise, stir in the Parmesan and season to taste. Should you fancy adding mascarpone, now would be the time to do it.

Additional Information

For vegetarians replace the Parmesan with a vegetarian alternative.

MAKE AHEAD:
Can be made ahead omitting Parmesan. Cool and refrigerate as quickly as possible. Will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days. Return to the pan, cover and reheat gently until piping hot, stirring occasionally and adding extra water or stock as needed to loosen the orzotto. Add Parmesan and continue as directed in the recipe.

For vegetarians replace the Parmesan with a vegetarian alternative.

MAKE AHEAD:
Can be made ahead omitting Parmesan. Cool and refrigerate as quickly as possible. Will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days. Return to the pan, cover and reheat gently until piping hot, stirring occasionally and adding extra water or stock as needed to loosen the orzotto. Add Parmesan and continue as directed in the recipe.

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What 2 Others have said

  • Today I made these for supper along with Chicken Thighs with 40 Cloves of Garlic. well actually 20, only for the 2 of us. It was great, so comforting.

    Posted by Clairette on 15th June 2020
  • Easy and delicious! I went back for seconds!

    Posted by happyandpositive on 15th June 2020
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