Chop up the Onion and crush the Garlic
Wash the Asparagus and snap off the woody ends…
Finely slice the good end of the woody end for about a centimetre – and also a couple of centimetres of the woody end of the spears (if that makes sense!). You’re after a handful or two of finely sliced Asparagus bits, that can be fried with the Onion to give it more Asparagus flavour. The actual spears should be griddled or dry fried to serve on the side with the Orzotto
Prepare the Nettles…. pick them with rubber gloves on. Wash a big bowl full of leaves carefully, and then soak in boiling water for a few minutes before draining and immediately drenching them in cold water, and then draining (again!) and squeezing out all the excess liquid. When they’re cooled and squeezed dry, you can finely slice or chop them so they’re ready for cooking (you’ll be surprised how few Nettles you actually end up with from a massive bowl of leaves)
Gently fry the Onion for 10 – 15 minutes or until soft and sweet. Add the Garlic and the chopped Asparagus, and continue to cook for a few minutes, stirring. When the Garlic is a little cooked, add a small glass of White Wine or Vermouth – and cook off the liquid and the alcohol
Now stir in the Pearl Barley, and 750ml of the Veg Stock. Bring to the boil and cook for 20 – 30 minutes or until the Barley is cooked (with a little bite, but cooked). Add the Nettles 5 minutes or so before it is done. Add extra Stock if it looks dry at all while cooking… the end result should be like Risotto (ie not too wet, but not too dry!)
Leave to stand for 10 minutes before stirring in some chopped Parsley and Chervil – also some Salt and Pepper to taste. Serve with the Asparagus spears on the side and maybe some fresh sliced tomatoes and a wedge of Lemon?!