Summer is here, temperatures are high, the cooking has become a challenge. Summer is no time to be stirring a meal over hot stove. I love risottos in summer, but not cooked in my kitchen. If you want to do it properly and do the mantecatura, it means you are leaned for at least 20 minutes over the stove. It is my signature dish from autumn to spring. (I just had to use this, as if I was a famous chef, and of course I don’t have signature dish). For this heat wave, I had another idea. Barley as a risotto but made the easy way. I saw the better version cooked by a real chef.
Our family friend Robert Gregorčič from Oštarija restaurant in Dolenjske Toplice came to my hometown Split on a mission. He was invited by my two friends to cook for homeless people of Split. I offered my mother’s kitchen and my assistance. Lana and Lada part of O La La project, organized families from Split to prepare dinners for the homeless, who were otherwise entitled to one meal from the public kitchen. At the homeless shelter there were 36 people at that time. The life wasn’t easy on them, and Robi wanted to give them, a little comfort on a plate. It was August, (hot summer). Mother’s kitchen was well equipped for family of four, not for 36. I was worried how we are going to cook for so many, but Robi waved his hand, and said, we will make twice as much plates, for double servings. He decided on barley dish as a risotto with Kranjska sausage and vegetables. He talked me trough the preparation. First we will cook barley in the salted water, make the vegetable stock, sauce and kohlrabi puree. Why puree:” I asked?” “Aaa that’s for creaminess and ooziness of the dish.” he responded. First, we went to a market. Our produce supplier, happily cleaned her stand as we progressed to the end of our shopping list. When she heard about the dinner, she filled additional bags with produce as her treat. We got the ingredients we were ready! Chef Robi, sous chef, me (was I proud!) assistants: hubby, two sons, my mother affected with Alzheimer’s and her nanny-sitter Jana.
All of us, washed, pealed, chopped the ingredients under the Robi’s control. Even my mother although struggling at the beginning what to do with the peeler, started to use it properly and skillfully. I saw the light in her eyes that Alzheimer’s so often dimmed away. I have learned about planning the meal for big group, flavors, how to make things simple yet tasty. The effort was recognized later in the shelter. Happy and satisfied people gave us best possible award. My love to Lana and Lada who made this project work in continuity for so long. My love also goes to Roby, who left his restaurant for few days, to be a part of such noble action.
2 medium onions
2 cloves of garlic
25 precooked prawns
1 chorizo the hot kind
parsley (chopped leaves for decoration, chopped stalks are added together with carrots)
barley (in this recipe I added pre-cooked barley. I boiled it in 1 cup of barley to 2,5-3 cups of water ratio, without soaking on medium heat almost simmering for 40 minutes, mine was organic)
beef stock (the only one available in my fridge at the time
I boiled the chopped kohlrabi in salted water, turned on the air-condition and came back 20 minutes later, after 25 minutes it was soft and ready to be pureed together with olive oil. Pan was on the stove, medium heat, onions in, little bit of salt, when they were glassy and yellowish, I added carrots, parsley stalks, garlic and chorizo. Precooked barley was added, stock, enough to cover it, and gently simmer, mixing it constantly. Kohlrabi puree poured over barley instantly added creamy texture. Robi told me about this manouvre.
My knowledge of cooking with kohlrabi was very limited (still is) I used it in mirepoix, or in stocks, and that was it. Nurse Ana from work, told me that it is pigs favorite treat on their farm… To continue with the recipe, for this one I wanted to combine sea and land (mare monti, surf and turf…. whatever you call it) it signifies my origin, my sons origin, and what I had that day in the fridge! I put them in the pan to caramelize, and added them in the dish just before the plating. You could do the dish without them, without meat, only veggies for that matter, with that puree you won’t need butter, so there you go, it’s vegan. The next one won’t be the same, but the kohlrabi will be its constant.