The beginning of September is pretty much the beginning of Autumn and a slow transition away from all the bursting flavours of summer. This is a lovely stew which very much defines this period of transition for me. We have fresh tomatoes and mussels for that flavour of summer, with a hearty barley stew to give us that autumnal feeling. I’ve never considered barley and mussels as a one-pot stew before, but it works rather well! I omitted the watercress from this (because I forgot), but can see some fresh chopped parsley working very well here too! The recipe is a little faffy but I found that you can just go about doing other bits and pieces as this is cooking, and the flavours are definitely worth it. This is fantastic with some fresh crusty bread to mop up the sauces!

More Ottolenghi recipes: Yotam Ottolenghi’s Hawaij root vegetable stew with whipped fenugreek | Yotam Ottolenghi’s Caramelised Onion Crostini

This is a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe featured in The Guardian’s Feast magazine.

Mussels with Barley Stew

photo of mussels and barley stew

Serves 4 | Prep 15 mins | Cook 1hr 10 mins

You’ll need:

  • 1 large head of garlic, top fifth cut off to expose the bulbs;
  • 80ml olive oil;
  • Salt and black pepper;
  • 300g pearl barley;
  • 3 banana shallots, peeled and finely sliced;
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds;
  • 1 lemon – finely shave off 5 strips of peel, then cut into wedges, to serve;
  • ½ scotch bonnet chilli;
  • 400g cherry tomatoes;
  • 1½ tbsp tomato paste;
  • 250ml dry white wine;
  • 800g mussels;
  • 60ml double cream;
  • 50g watercress.

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Take two cloves from the garlic head and peel and thinly slice them. Drizzle a teaspoon of oil over the rest of the head, and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Wrap the head tightly in foil and roast for 40 minutes, until the cloves have softened and turned golden brown. Remove the foil and, when the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze out the cloves and discard the skin.

Meanwhile, put the barley in a medium saucepan with plenty of cold water and put on a medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes, until the barley is semi-cooked but still has a good bite to it, then drain.

Put a large saucepan on a medium heat with the remaining 75ml oil, the raw and cooked garlic, shallots, caraway seeds, lemon peel, scotch bonnet and two and a half teaspoons of salt. Fry gently for 10-12 minutes, stirring often, until the shallots are soft and golden brown (turn down the heat if they start colouring too quickly). Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, and cook for eight minutes, until the tomatoes start to break down. Add the wine, 750ml cold water and plenty of pepper, bring to a simmer and cook for seven minutes. Add the barley and cook for eight minutes more, until it has swollen a little in the sauce.

Turn up the heat to medium-high, add the mussels, cover the pan and cook until they open – anywhere between three and six minutes.

Pour over the cream, add the watercress and plenty of pepper, and gently stir everything together. Serve hot with the lemon wedges and crusty bread to mop up the sauces.

Original recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi in The Guardian’s Feast, available online here.