We are all working to stay happy, healthy and somewhat sane during this time. It is the middle of the coronavirus pandemic as I write this draft. We are social-distancing, a new word, and we s-d even in our own homes. It is a scary time that is changing the world in many large and small ways. Oh, so many countries have been devastated with so many deaths, my heart is broken for you. Who knows what is to come ….
As it happens, I happen to have a couple of flat mushrooms in the fridge, barley in the pantry and feta from the Afghan shop. There is parsley and thyme in the garden, so this seems to be the perfect use for the mushrooms. I also have wine! It is a rare occurrence, but is perfect for this dish. The mushrooms are slowly braised in the oven in wine, stock, butter and thyme, to become achingly soft, fragrant and highly flavoursome. The stuffing is barley, feta, preserved lemon, garlic and herbs. It is an unusual stuffing for mushrooms, but one that is divine and perfect against the soft ‘shrooms. They mended my heart a little, just for a moment.
This is an Ottolenghi recipe from his book Ottolenghi. I serendipitously came across it while browsing last evening. We are always free to massage his recipes into a shape that fits what we have at hand, but this time it needed little alteration. I toyed with the idea of using goat cheese for feta, and it would have worked, but used feta instead. I did chop up the mushroom stems and add them to the barley as it cooked. No waste, no want, always my mantra. This recipe doesn’t appear to be on the Guardian website, so you will have to check his books for the original.
Similar recipes include Toasted Barley and Pistachio Pilaf, Sweet Barley and Ginger Poached Rhubarb, Roasted Mushrooms with Burrata, Pan Fried Mushrooms in Butter, Roasted Mushrooms and Garlic, Black Barley with Mushrooms, and Mushrooms in Terracotta.
Mushrooms with Pearl Barley and Preserved Lemon
100 g unsalted butter
15 sprigs thyme
6 large flat mushrooms, e.g. portabello or large swiss brown
180 ml dry white wine
180 ml vegetable stock
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tblspn sunflower oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
750 ml vegetable stock
110g pearled barley
0.25 preserved lemon, flesh removed and skin finely chopped
50g feta cheese, crumbled
1 Tblspn flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tspn thyme leaves
2 Tblspn purple basil sprouts, radish sprouts, or purple basil leaves, shredded (optional)
1 Tblspn olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
First cook the barley. Heat the sunflower oil in a heavy-based saucepan and saute the onion and garlic until translucent. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the barley, lower the heat, then cover and simmer for 1 hour, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the barley is tender. Keep careful watch over the barley in the last 10-15 mins so that it doesn’t boil dry.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C. Take a large baking sheet and grease it heavily with two-thirds of the butter. Scatter the thyme sprigs over it. Stem the mushrooms and place the mushroom caps, stem side up, on top of the thyme. Pour over the wine and stock and scatter the sliced garlic over. Dot each mushroom with a couple of knobs of the remaining butter, then season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender. Leave them in their cooking juices until you are ready to serve.
When the barley is done, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the preserved lemon, feta, parsley, and thyme. Taste and add salt and pepper. To serve, reheat the mushrooms in the oven for a few minutes, if necessary. Place each mushroom, stem side up, on a serving plate. Scoop the barley on top and spoon some of the mushroom cooking juices over. Garnish with the basil sprouts and drizzle over the olive oil.