Onion and rosemary risotto with Marsala


I don’t make risotto – all that standing and stirring is too boring and laborious for me. I get impatient and try to add the stock too quickly…my arm hurts. Luckily though my husband Ben is a risotto king. It has become his special dish which he makes for me with love and care when I ask him very nicely and give him plenty of notice (having first checked the weather forecast as standing stirring over a hot stove in the heat is not fun).

This very simple sounding risotto from Lindsey Bareham has become my new favourite – knocking beetroot risotto off the top spot. Prior to that it hand been a James Martin smoked haddock and black pudding one.

The combination of onion and rosemary with the sweet Marsala produces the most heavenly rich flavour. You won’t believe me until you’ve tried it.

Marsala is widely available in supermarkets, look for it in the ‘fortified wine’ section. It also makes a nice aperitif, served cold with ice.


The master teaching the son.

Lindsey Bareham’s onion and rosemary risotto with Marsala

  • 2 ½ medium sized onions, peeled, halved and finely sliced
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of fresh rosemary, very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 75g of butter
  • 250g Arborio rice
  • 1 small glass of Marsala (or Madeira works well too)
  • Approximately 1 litre of hot chicken or vegetable stock (homemade is always best but a good ready made stock will still be nice)
  • 50g of Parmesan cheese, grated
  • A pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper

Fry the ½ of the onion in hot vegetable oil until crisp and drain on some kitchen roll. These are for the crispy onion garnish which is essential.

Melt 50g of butter in a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat and stir in the rest of the onions seasoned with ½ teaspoon of salt. Cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes until limp.

Stir the rosemary into the onions. Add the rice and cook with the onion for a couple of minutes until the rice is semi-translucent.

Then add the Marsala and let it bubble away into the rice stirring all the time as it does.

Now for the laborious bit.

Add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and not adding the next ladleful until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid. You may need to turn the heat down a bit so that you have a nice gentle simmer. The whole process will take around 30 minutes in total. At the end the risotto will have a creamy like consistency and the rice should be soft with a slight bite in the middle. If when you have used up all the stock the rice is still not cooked keep adding a little more hot water until it is done.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the remaining butter and cheese and season to taste with salt, pepper and a little sugar. Cover the pan and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with the garnish of crispy fried onions and extra Parmesan if you like.


Mushroom kasha with a Sat Bains twist

mushroom kasha

When it comes to dinner in our house we tend to operate an informal rota of the three main carbohydrates – rice, pasta, potato. Not necessarily always in that order but certainly never two nights running of the same. Sometimes this gets a bit monotonous so it’s nice to break it up a bit by having an alternative to add to the mix.

This kasha recipe which uses pearl barley as an alternative source of carbohydrate was given to me when I was a student by my house-mate David’s mum. David had enjoyed it as a child because it has a comforting, baby food like texture a bit like risotto. I cooked it a lot at university but since then, and until recently, it has lain in my recipe book unnoticed.

That was until I visited the wonderful Restaurant Sat Bains back in May (an ultra-special treat for my husband’s birthday – it’s so expensive!) and we ate an amazing dish of pearl barley, belly pork and turnip. They deep fried some of the pearl barley kernels which gave the dish an added dimension and a nutty crunch. After this experience I decided to resurrect my old kasha recipe and add deep fried pearl barley (Sat Bains style) to liven it up a bit. It works nicely so thanks Sat.

Mushroom kasha

Serves 2-4

  • 250g pearl barley
  • 28g knorr beef stock pot, or you can use a vegetable one for a vegetarian dish
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • A sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
  • A splash of vermouth (optional)
  • 12g porcini mushrooms
  • 180g chestnut mushrooms, chopped into thin slices
  • A good handful of chopped parsley
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of cheese (parmesan, cheddar or a mixture of the two)
  • 30g butter
  • Salt and pepper

Start by rinsing the pearl barley in cold water  replacing the water several times until it runs relatively clear. Then transfer to a small saucepan and cover the pearl barley with an inch and half of water and add the stock pot.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir at regular intervals and add more water if necessary.

After this time, remove a heaped tablespoon of pearl barley from the pan and spread out onto a sheet of kitchen roll to absorb any excess moisture. Set aside to dry out a bit.

Crush the garlic and add this to the pan along with the rosemary, 15g of the butter, the porcini mushrooms, the vermouth and a couple of twists of the pepper mill. Then continue to cook on a low heat for another 30 minutes until the pearl barley is tender. Again you may need to add more water and you will need to stir regularly (but it is not necessary to stir continually like with a risotto). By the end of the cooking time most of the moisture should have been absorbed. Check the seasoning and add additional salt and pepper if necessary. Keep warm on a very low heat with a lid on.

Put a frying pan on a medium heat, add the remaining 15g of butter and sauté the mushrooms until they are soft, and season well with salt and pepper. Stir these into the pearl barley.

In another frying pan heat a good cm of groundnut or sunflower oil until it is close to smoking. Tip in the pearl barley that you dried and set aside earlier and cook for a couple of minutes until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a sheet of kitchen roll.

To finish the dish, add a handful of cheese to the pearl barley and stir well. Serve into bowls and garnish with the remaining cheese, deep fried pearl barley and parsley.

Nice Rice

nice rice

There has been so much written about how to cook perfect rice but this is the only way that has ever worked for me so I’m sticking to it. I am confident in saying that it’s fool proof.

Serves 2-4 depending on appetite

Half a pint of Basmati Rice
A little butter or oil
A pint of stock

Put a small dollop of butter, or a dash of oil into a small saucepan and put it onto a low heat on the hob.

In a measuring jug tip in half a pint of Basmati rice (I just use Tesco’s own label rice, but any will do as long as it’s not ‘easy cook’ as this has some sort of Teflon type coating that just doesn’t work with this recipe). Pour the rice into the saucepan with the butter/oil and give it a good stir.

In the meantime boil the kettle and make up 1 pint of chicken or vegetable stock (I use half a Knorr stock pot –usually chicken).

Tip this into the saucepan and bring to the boil. Then put on a tight fitting lid and turn the heat down low and cook for 15 minutes. Do not be tempted to open the lid.

After 15 minutes fluff up the rice with a fork and serve. If it’s not quite done then put the lid back on, off the heat and leave it to steam for a further five minutes.

Flavouring the rice to accompany different meals

Stir in the following flavourings with the oil or butter at the start of the cooking

  • For Spanish or Mexican dishes like Chorizo stew or Chilli con carne I use olive oil and a good pinch of saffron
  • To accompany Chinese dishes I use sesame oil and a pinch of five spice
  • To accompany Indian dishes I use ghee and pop in a couple of crushed cardamom pods and sometimes half a teaspoon of turmeric

I always keep left over rice in the fridge. Fry it up with an egg and a handful of frozen peas (no need to cook first) for an easy and super quick supper. This is an absolute favourite with my children.