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From the Archive

Some of you may remember that back in 2012 we launched Cooking Cool – all the ingredients to knock up your own two course dinner with a recipe designed by Alex Claridge, chef patron of Birmingham’s brilliant Wilderness restaurant and sometime Staying Cool executive chef. (How ahead of the curve were we? If only we had set it up as a separate business back then!)

As so many of us have lots of spare time on our hands these days – and mastering new recipes in the kitchen is one way to get something positive out of these strange times – we thought that we would re-release one of Alex’s archive recipes every Friday.

We had such fun testing these recipes out and feasting on the results. We even did a live cookalong in 2015 on Periscope (remember that?). Alex is such a talented chef and every recipe was a hit with us and guests alike.

During lockdown Alex is offering individual or group lessons online – Cooking with Claridge – which we can wholeheartedly promise will be lots of fun.

We also hope to be announcing some exciting news in partnership with Alex and The Wilderness next month which we know you are going to LOVE!

Wilderness owner and top chef Alex Claridge and Staying Cool owner Tracey Stephenson test cooking one of Alex's Cooking Cool recipes in 2014.
Top chef Alex Claridge and Staying Cool’s Tracey Stephenson test cooking one of Alex’s Cooking Cool recipes back in 2014.

Barley Caraway and Feta Risotto Recipe

Today’s dish is from 2014. It’s vegetarian and makes for a perfect informal supper now the weather is warming up: Barley Caraway and Feta Risotto.

Don’t be intimidated by the ingredients list. If you’ve never cooked with barley before (we hadn’t) this is actually a pretty simple, bold, vibrant vegetarian main course that, fundamentally, is a one-pot recipe. Easy.

It only takes 20 minutes to prepare and 45 minutes to cook and just think of the kudos you’ll get from your lockdown buddies when you put this on the table.  So get this risotto on, pour yourself a glass of wine, relax and enjoy the praise.

Oh, and on the subject of wine our other best friends at Loki Wine recommend you pair your risotto with a bottle of Feudi di San Gregorio Albente Falanghina, a fresh white wine from Italy’s Campagnia region. You can find the wine on their website here:

And while we’re mentioning our other open, indie partners, you can always round off your meal with a cup of QuarterHorse coffee. Look at us, we think of everything 🙂

Now on with the risotto …


Large pan

X 3 bowls

Sharp knife


100g pearl barley

15g unsalted butter

45ml olive oil

1 celery stalk, cut into 5mm dice

1 small banana shallot, cut into 5mm dice

2 garlic cloves, cut into 2mm dice

2 thyme sprigs

¼ tsp smoked paprika

2 strips of lemon rind

Pinch of chilli flakes

200g chopped tomatoes

350ml vegetable stock

150ml passata

½ tbsp. caraway seeds

1 block feta, crumbled roughly

1 tbsp fresh oregano

Salt & pepper


  1. Before you start, read through the ingredients and make sure your vegetables are all cut up and organised as above. This will save loads of time, trust me.
  2. Rinse your pearl barley under cold water and leave to drain
  3. Melt the butter and 1 large dessert spoon of  olive oil in a large pan and cook the celery, shallot & garlic over a gentle heat until soft.
  4. Add the barley, thyme, paprika, lemon rind, chili flakes, tomatoes, stock, passata and a pinch of salt.  Stir and combine.
  5. Bring the mixture to the boil then reduce to a gentle simmer. You’re almost done. See, I said it was easy.
  6. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring regularly to ensure the barley doesn’t stick on the bottom of the pan. You can have a glass of the Feudi now while you wait …
  7. Toss caraway seeds in a dry pan over a medium heat (4), ‘toasting’ for a few minutes taking care not to burn them.
  8. Crumble feta, add the caraway seeds and drizzle with olive oil and keep in a bowl. 
  9. Once the risotto is ready, season to taste and serve in two bowls.  Top the risotto with the feta & seeds and fresh oregano.
  10. Enjoy.

Tracey our MD tested this recipe with Alex. Can you guess whose dish was whose? Remember, it’s all in the presentation!