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Crisp, buttery barley flakes lift this simple variation on leeks vinaigrette to a completely new, deeply textured level. Good bread is all it really needs to make a fine lunch for two or a lighter starter for four. It also makes a fitting accompaniment to warm lemony roast chicken or a piece of freshly grilled fish.
serves 2 as a lunch or 4 as a starter
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon runny honey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 knobs of butter
50g (13⁄4oz) rolled barley flakes
1 small garlic clove, bashed
4 small leeks, trimmed butter to a plate lined with kitchen paper.
5 or 6 thyme sprigs 1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground black pepper
First, make the dressing. Combine the mustard, honey and olive oilin a small bowl with a little salt and pepper, and set aside.
Melt half the butter in a large heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat, until it’s gently bubbling. Add the barley flakes along with plenty of salt and pepper. Stir to coat the barley in the butter, add the garlic, then cook, shaking and stirring the pan regularly to ensure the flakes toast evenly. It should take about 6–8 minutes to crisp the flakes and bring out their fragrant aroma.
Cut away most of the of the darker green tops of the leeks (you can save them for making stock). Cut the remaining parts of the leeks into 2.5cm (1in) rounds on a slight angle. Give them a wash in plenty of water, but be careful not to break up the rounds too much.
Drain the leeks and place them in a shallow pan. Add the remaining butter, thyme sprigs and bay leaf and half a glass of water, and season well with salt and pepper. Place the lid on the pan and set it over a medium heat. Bring the contents of the pan up to a very gentle simmer, then cook, covered, for 6–8 minutes, or until the leeks are tender. Drain the leeks in a colander and allow them to cool a little. Arrange the cooled leeks over a large serving platter, scatter over the toasted rolled barley and drizzle over the dressing. Serve straight away.