The following quantities will make one generous portion:
- 1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed and soaked for 1 hour
- splash olive oil
- 30g butter
- 1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
- 1/2 glass white wine
- 400ml vegetable stock
- 4-6 leaves cavolo nero, shredded
- goat's or ewe's milk cheese
- salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste
Drain the barley and add to the pan with the onion. Stir well to coat with the buttery juices. Cook for a minute or two, then add the wine, increase the heat, and cook until the wine is almost gone. Now add a ladle of the hot stock and cook, stirring frequently, until the stock has been absorbed. Keep adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, until the grains are almost cooked - you want to keep a bit of a bite to them. When you judge they are almost there, add a final ladle of stock and the cavolo nero, put a lid on the pan, and allow the greens to steam for 3 minutes.
Remove the lid and give it a good stir; if there's too much liquid for your liking, turn up the heat and quickly boil off the excess. Now beat in the rest of the butter and check the seasoning. It will need salt, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, and perhaps a squeeze of lemon. Serve right away with some tangy goat's or sheep's cheese crumbled on top.
This is great served with a peppery salad (watercress or rocket) and a crisp, dry white wine.