Hearty and nutritious barley is given a makeover in this creamy springtime supper.
1 shallot, finely chopped
225g/8oz pearl barley
50ml/2fl oz white wine
800ml/1 pint 8fl oz chicken stock
2 bunches English asparagus, woody ends snapped off and reserved
60g/2¼oz bacon lardons
85g/3oz cooked and shelled broad beans
3 tomatoes, skinned and seeds removed, cut into 1cm/½in cubes
For the sauce, add the woody ends of the asparagus stems to the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for another five minutes. Blend the mixture and pass through a sieve into a clean saucepan. Add the cream and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
For the pearl barley, melt the butter in a saucepan and fry the shallot for one minute without colouring. Add the pearly barley and cook for a further minute.
Add the wine to the mixture and bring to the boil, then add 325ml/11fl oz of the stock and return to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until all of the stock has been absorbed. Add another 325ml/11fl oz of stock and cook for a further 20-25 minutes, or until the barley is tender. (You may need to add a little more stock.)
Meanwhile, cut 4cm/1½in of the tips from the asparagus and set aside. Slice the remaining stems at an angle.
Cook the asparagus tips in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes, drain and refresh in salted ice water then drain again.
Fry the bacon lardons in a frying pan for one minute, or until golden-brown
Stir the sliced asparagus stems into the barley and cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Stir in the bacon, broad beans, asparagus tips and tomatoes.
To serve, froth the sauce with a hand blender. Spoon the barley into deep serving bowls and pour over the sauce.
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