1 litre vegetable stock
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic glove, finely chopped
a few sprigs of thyme, leaves only, chopped
2-3 medium leeks, trimmed and washed
150g tender young nettle tops, wash thoroughly and then wilt in a pan of salted water for 5-6 minutes until tender. Drain in a sieve, pressing out the water, then chop fairly finely.
300g pearl barley
50g hard cheese
salt and pepper
Heat the stock in a saucepan and keep it on a low simmer over a very low heat.
Heat about half the butter and 1 tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and thyme and sweat gently for about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft.
In the meantime, cut the leeks into 2cm thick slices.
Stir the barley through the softened onions and cook gently for a minute or two. Add the wine and let it bubble until all the liquid is absorbed.
Now start adding the stock, about a quarter at a time, as you would for a risotto, stirring often and letting each addition be absorbed before you add the next. It should take about 30 minutes for the barley to cook to a tender texture with a hint of bite.
While the barley is cooking, sweat the leeks in the remaining butter and oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat, tossing and stirring occassionally, until tender, but retaining a slight bite.
Take the finished barlotto off the heat and stir through the leeks and nettles and grated cheese.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with grated cheese, and a grinding of black pepper.