50 mlvegetable oil1onion, finely diced1celery stalk, finely diced2garlic cloves, finely chopped2fresh bay leaves400 gm (2 cups)pearl barley, soaked in cold water for 1 hour, drained250 mldry white wine 2 litres (8 cups)vegetable stockJuiceof 1 lemon100 gmfinely grated pecorinoArtichokes1 eachcarrot, onion and celery stalk, finely chopped½ bunchthyme2fresh bay leaves250 mldry white wine2 tbspwhite wine vinegar4globe artichokesNettle butter4 cups (firmly packed)stinging nettles (see note)1 cup (firmly packed)flat-leaf parsley200 gmsoftened butter2garlic cloves, mincedFinelygrated rind and juice of 1 lemon
For artichokes, combine carrot, onion, celery, herbs, wine and vinegar in a large saucepan, add 2 litres water, season to taste, bring to the boil. Meanwhile, remove outer leaves from artichokes and peel outer flesh from stalk. Add artichokes to stock, cover with baking paper, submerge with a plate. Bring to the simmer over medium heat, remove from heat, stand until completely cool. Remove artichokes, halve lengthways and remove hairy chokes with a teaspoon. Thinly slice, set aside.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over low-medium heat, add onion, celery, garlic and bay leaves and sauté until tender (12-15 minutes). Add barley and deglaze pan with wine, then add vegetable stock a ladle at a time, allowing it to be absorbed without evaporating too much, until all stock is added and barley is tender (30-35 minutes), adding artichokes during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Meanwhile, for nettle butter, blanch nettles and parsley in boiling water until just tender (20-30 seconds). Refresh, drain, finely chop, wrap in a tea towel, squeeze out excess water. Transfer to a bowl with butter, garlic, lemon rind and juice, season to taste, mix well to combine.
Stir half the butter through barley (remaining will keep frozen for 3 months), add lemon juice, season to taste and serve scattered with pecorino.
Note Stinging nettles are available from select Italian greengrocers and will need to be ordered in advance.
This recipe is from the October 2010 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.