I ate so much on my weekend in Italy that I was half expecting Easyjet to charge extra for increased weight on the return journey. I couldn’t help it! The food was too good!
As soon as we arrived our kind friends were plying us with prosciutto, formaggio, salami and prosecco. It’s rude to refuse hosts so we ate as much as we could just to show our appreciation (this was after having had dinner at Heathrow!). This also happened 12 hours later when it was time for breakfast. How can you say no to freshly squeezed Sicilian oranges and locally produced bread and honey? That’s right, you can’t!
Next stop was Como for lunch and a truffle binge at a little restaurant called Hosterietta. We picked a white truffle risotto and a dish of polenta with a cheese sauce, topped with dark truffles. So delicious – you just couldn’t get this in the UK without re mortgaging your home! We happened to walk past a Gelateria on our way back to the car. Everyone knows that Italian ice cream is the best so we had to squeeze one in, head freeze and all!
Back in the car, we were now on our way to Milan and grateful for the time to digest! First stop was Café Cova for an Espresso Macchiato. We downed them at the bar in true Italian style. Later our classy friends took us to two very classy drinking holes – the new Armani hotel bar and the Bulgari hotel bar. Although drinks aren’t cheap in these hotels, they ply you with tons of free food. And good free food, not just peanuts. Well there were peanuts but nice Italian ones, buffalo mozzarella, olives the size of tennis balls, Parmesan biscuits, pearl barley risotto and canapés. One can eat very well by just purchasing a couple of drinks. Despite eating really well, we still devoured some sushi at Armani/Nobu before some more much needed digestion time in the car!
Aubergine and Tomato Pearl Barley Risotto
Serves 4 as a main or 6 as a starter
This is inspired by a dish we were served at the Armani bar in Milan. I make a lot of risottos but have never made one with pearl barley. As this is heavier than a rice risotto it would work well as a starter for 6 people using the quantities given here.
– 2 tablespoons of olive oil
– 2 aubergines
– 2 teaspoons of Bouillon vegetable stock
– 1 onion, finely chopped
– 250g pearl barley
– 100ml white wine
– 50g slow roasted tomatoes (Merchant Gormet ones are good)
– 1 clove garlic, crushed
– 20g butter
– A few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
– 40g rocket
– Freshly ground pepper
– Freshly grated Parmesan
– Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
1. Preheat the oven to 200°/Gas Mark 6. Pierce the aubergines well and brush with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. I say this from experience as I once had one explode in my face upon opening the oven. Put on a roasting tray and roast for 35-40 minutes until tender.
2. Add the 2 teaspoons of stock to a litre of water and put on a high heat.
3. In another saucepan, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil on a medium to high heat before adding the onion. Fry for 5 minutes or so until soft.
4. Add the pearl barley to the onion and mix for a minute so it gets coated with oil. Now add the wine and give the pan a stir. When the wine has cooked off you can now start adding the stock a ladleful at a time. Do not add more stock until the last ladleful has been absorbed.
5. Take the aubergines out of the oven, cut into quarters lengthways and allow to cool before scooping out the flesh. Chop up the flesh along with the slow roasted tomatoes.
6. When you have finished all of your stock add the aubergines, tomatoes, thyme, butter, garlic and rocket to the pan and give it a good mix to combine. Add a good grind of pepper to the saucepan. Dish out onto plates before topping with some freshly grated Parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.