Asparagus & Nettle Orzotto

I am particularly loving nettles at the moment... they're healthy and good for you, they're free and lurking abundantly at the bottom of the garden, and they're also super good at being added (deliciously and at the last moment) to sauces and to rice or pasta dishes. Here, nettles have become the buddies of pearl barley and asparagus - two equally healthy components of an orzotto that actually ends up tasting ever so decadent, despite being ever so good for you, and ever so low in cholesterol. Enjoy with some roasted tomatoes, or some slightly pickled beetroot maybe?!


  • 250g Pearl Barley
  • 1 large Onion
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 large bowl Nettles
  • 1 bunch Asparagus
  • Glass White Wine or Vermouth
  • Parsley and Chervil
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 litre ish Veg Stock

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?!

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