Time does fly... I find it hard to believe that it's been exactly a year since I arrived to the Cayman Islands. Looking back, the past twelve months have been a great and wonderful learning experience. I thoroughly enjoy my work as a baker. In fact, I love it. I absolutely love it.
I still remember baking my first loaf of bread not too, too long ago and I was just fascinated by it. Now, I get to do it (almost) everyday. The more I bake, read, experiment and learn from mistakes, I have become more confident and I look forward to learning more and expanding my skill set.
I have also surprised myself that I adjust well to this new environment and I could actually enjoy the island life. Friends who know me well, know that I am not keen on the sun and hot weather. I melt like butter. People say, no one comes to England for the weather, but perhaps that's one of the things I miss most from home. Anyway, the turning point was few weeks ago when I was walking home from work one late afternoon. It was a sunny day and I stopped for a moment, I closed my eyes, soak the warm sun and thinking "hmmm.... this is nice". Strange, I know.
Anyway, walking home from the gym today, I really fancy something hearty and so I make this barley risotto with sausage and peas. It's called a risotto but it's much easier to make. There's no need for constant stirring around around the stove. All the liquid goes at once and let the barley cooks until tender.
Here I use plain pork sausage meat and I add familiar gutsy Italian flavours of fragrant fennel seeds, garlic, red chili flakes, Marsala, lemon and parmesan. Not feeling embarrassed at all, I also use frozen peas here, a must-have in my freezer; and a rather large handful of flat leaf Italian parsley, because I want the parsley to almost become another vegetable in the risotto, not just a garnish.
This is great one-pot meal to serve when having friends around and it can easily be done ahead of time. On reheating, you might need to add a bit more liquid and add it the parmesan just before serving.
Have a great one my friends...
Olive oil, regular not extra virgin
200 gr sausage meat
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 banana shallot, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
150 ml Marsala
250 gr pearl barley
750 ml chicken stock
200 gr frozen peas
Juice and zest of half a lemon
2 tablespoons parmesan, grated
A big handful of flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Heat a lug of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan or pot that comes with a lid over a medium-high heat. Add the sausage meat to the pan, really breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Fry for a few minutes, or until the meat starts to colour.
Add the fennel seeds, dried chili flakes and season with celery salt and cook over a medium heat for around 10 minutes, or until the meat becomes crisp, golden brown and begins to caramelised.
Stir in the shallot, garlic and the dried thyme and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Then pour in the marsala wine and really scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze it.
Turn up the heat and add the pearl barley, mixing everything well. Add the chicken stock and when it comes to a boil, clamp the lid on and simmer gently. After 20 minutes, throw in the frozen peas and give everything a good stir around. Continue to cook with a lid on for another 10-15 minutes. Do add a little more stock or water if the liquid is absorbed before the barley is tender enough.
Remove the lid, stir in the grated parmesan, parsley, lemon zest and juice. Do also check for seasoning and serve immediately.