Well, it was a massive pain (I speak both figuratively and literally - I have only just regained use of my shoulder muscles) but we did it! We moved out. Our belongings are scattered like the wind, we are officially no longer home owners, and we're on a sort-of-holiday staying in other people's houses. The only difference is that we still have to go to work. But nonetheless, after a weekend of bloody hard graft, we did it! I wasn't 100% sure we'd make it.
Of course, all that carrying and loading and storing didn't leave much time or energy for cooking. By the time we collapsed on Saturday evening, after a solid 12.5 hours of hard physical labour, we had ravenous appetites but barely the energy to order a takeaway. A kind family member gave us a food parcel for Sunday evening, for which I was weepingly grateful. And now, as the aches and pains have subsided, we're getting back to normal. We've had a couple of days to get used to living in someone else's house - how does the washing machine work? where do they keep the corkscrew? is that noise normal? - and tonight, for the first time, we cooked a proper meal.
Because all our recipe books are in storage (along with 9 cubic metres of our other junk - who knew you could fit so much in a one bedroom flat?), we sort of winged it with this. No recipe, no measurements, just a handful of this and a scattering of that. We tried a sort of risotto using pearl barley instead of rice, which I think I prefer to normal risotto - it's got a bite, a toothsomeness to it which makes it feel a bit more aggressively healthy. But normal risotto rice would be just as good, and would cook more quickly. You know, if you hadn't used up all the risotto rice before moving.
We added pretty much anything we had, namely left over roast chicken, spinach and broccoli, and smothered it liberally with parmesan. What we ended up with was pleasingly autumnal - just right for this time of year. Have you noticed that it's getting dark earlier in the evenings, and it's a bit nippy in the mornings? Who knows, by the time we have a home of our own again, it might be fully-fledged winter. It might be spring! Please god, can we have a home before summer. Anyway, while we're in this in-between stage, at least we've got food, wine and somewhere to live. Keep your fingers crossed that we can find somewhere permanent to make a pearl barley-scented home.
Roast Chicken, Broccoli and Spinach Orzotto
- left over roast chicken (we had a whole breast and a whole load of brown meat shreds)
- pearl barley (I think we had about 400g? Not sure)
- an onion, finely chopped
- a clove of garlic, ditto
- splash of white wine
- 500ml of chicken stock
- a couple of portions of broccoli, cut into small chunks
- a handful of broad beans (we used frozen)
- a couple of big handfuls of spinach
- oil, butter, salt and pepper
Sweat the onion and garlic in a bit of oil until softened - about five minutes - then chuck in the barley and stir it around for a few minutes. Add the wine, stir until the pan's dry again, then add some stock.
Because barley doesn't go as creamy as risotto rice (but does take longer to cook), I got lazy and poured all the stock in at once rather than doing the normal risotto bit-of-stock-stir-stir-stir-bit-more-stock-stir-stir-stir thing. I just poured it all in, let it simmer for about 20 minutes, then topped up with more water when it looked like it was getting dry.
After about 20 minutes, taste the barley and see if you think it's nearly done or if it needs longer. I think it needs about half an hour, forty minutes in total. When it's verging on tender but still has a bit of bite, chuck in the broccoli, broad beans and chicken. About ten minutes later, check everything's done then season it, add in the spinach and a good grating of parmesan, along with a knob of butter. Stir, let it sit for a few minutes, then ta-dah! You're done.