26 July 2015

Braised artichokes and pearl barley with summer veg

I am a huge fan of artichokes. They have a great meaty flavour, and are much more versatile than many people think. I have written before about my attempts to grow artichokes, and they are a vegetable that I love growing. When we moved into our new flat earlier this year, as soon as some space became available, I planted half a dozen plants. One of these fell foul to some aggressive sabotage from a seagull, but the others grew well. By July, several small artichokes had appeared.

Artichokes benefit from a long slow cook, and make the great cornerstone to a vegetable stew. I like to braise them in a little stock, and find they go particularly well with pearl barley. This recipe for braised artichokes and pearl barley with summer vegetables is more of a method than a strict recipe. I use whatever veg I have to hand in the veg plot, but follow the formula of artichokes, some legumes and a leaf vegetable. It is best with artichokes, but if you don’t have any you could swap them for young turnips or kohlrabi. It is a one-pot supper, so pretty low on washing-up. The trick is to add the veg at the appropriate time, so that nothing is overcooked or undercooked. It is a meat free-dish that is wholesome and full of summer flavours. I used asparagus peas, which are a fairly unusual legume, but normal peas or mange tout are equally good.


(serves 2)

3-4 smallish artichokes
80g pearl barley
100ml white wine
Approx. 500g veg stock (a light chicken stock also works nicely, but I’ve tried to keep the recipe vegetarian)
1 medium onion
1 large garlic clove
A good handful of runner beans and asparagus peas (or any other legumes – peas and broad beans also work well)
1 head of pak choi (chard also works well)
Extra virgin olive oil
A few basil leaves
Juice of half a lemon


Dice the onion and sweat down in a pan. Slice the garlic finely and add as the onion softens. Once the onions are soft, add the white wine and allow the alcohol to evaporate.

Add the pearl barley to the pan and stir into the onions. Add a couple of ladlefuls of stock, bring to the boil, cover and turn down to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, adding more stock if necessary.

Meanwhile, prepare the artichokes. Raw artichoke flesh has a tendency to discolour once cut. Have a bowl of acidulated water on hand to avoid this happening (ie water with the juice of half a lemon added). To prepare the artichokes, start by tearing off the tough outer leaves until you reach the softer inner leaves. Then use a paring knife to remove the remnants of any of the outer leaves and the tough outer skin of the stems. You can leave about 2-3 inches of the stem in place. As you do this, dip the artichoke in the acidulated water from time to time to prevent discoloration. Then cut off the top two-thirds of the leaves of the artichoke, so that only the softer lower portion of the leaves remains. Finally, take a teaspoon and remove any hair at the centre of the choke. Put the prepared artichokes in the acidulated water.

Cut the artichokes into halves (or quarters if large), then add to the pearl barley. You may need to add another ladleful of stock.

Meanwile prep the beans. Runner beans should have the ends chopped off and the strings on each side removed with a vegetable peeler.

After about ten minutes check the artichokes with a knife. They should start to feel fairly soft. Then add the beans and asparagus peas. Allow to cook for a minute or so, then add the pak choi, roughly chopped. Cook for another five minutes or so, until all the veg are cooked through.

Serve in a shallow bowl, adding the basil leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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