Ham Hock, Barley and Apple Risotto from the Pheasant Philospher

The brilliant Hannah Freeman, @the_pheasant_philosopher is a Wye Valley Based Food Writer and here is her first recipe using Wye Valley Producers ingredients - this is a perfect Autumnal cheerer!

This is my autumnal take on a classic risotto. Pearl Barley was once a very important crop throughout Wales and the borders. Its hardy nature meant that it could be grown easily in the steep uplands with a rather inhospitable climate. I’ve combined it with local ham hock, apples and a little hit of piquant cider vinegar to make a filling and comforting supper dish - a handful of crisp pea shoots and a spoon or two of Netherend butter finishes the dish. Although it takes a little longer to cook than rice, pearl barley offers a depth of flavour and unctuousness which makes the extra effort very worthwhile.

Ingredients: Serves 4 generously


1 litre of vegetable or ham stock (either fresh or made using gel/cubes)
25ml Orchard’s Cider and Perry Cider Vinegar
150ml Hollow Ash Orchard Apple Juice
1 eating apple, peeled and finely diced
200g pulled ham hock
1 generous tsp Wye Valley Meadery honey
200g Pearl Barley, rinsed
1 medium leek, finely chopped, Gorsely Growers
1 medium carrot, finely diced  Gorsley Growers
3 tablespoons Netherend Unsalted Butter
Pea Shoots to serve, Naturally Green Micros
Chopped parsley to serve
Salt and White Pepper, to taste


Prepare the stock, and stir in the cider vinegar, honey and apple juice. I like to add any ham trimmings/fat to the stock as well to add extra flavour. Bring the fragrant broth to a gentle boil, in a saucepan

Sauté the leek and carrot in 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter until softened, then stir in the chopped apple and pearl barley with 1/3 of the pulled ham. Allow the barley to cook for a couple of minutes before beginning to add the boiling stock, a ladle at a time, stirring constantly, waiting until the stock is absorbed before adding another ladle.

When you have used up half of your stock add another 1/3 of the ham hock and continue until all the stock has been absorbed. This will take about half an hour - I find the stirring rather therapeutic and a little mindfulness combined with cooking is always a good thing.

Taste test the barley; it should be al dente (rather like pasta), cooked, but with a little bite. Feel free to add extra stock if you prefer a softer result.

Finally add the chopped parsley and the rest of the butter, then leave the pan, with a lid on, to rest for 5-10 minutes. This ensures that the risotto develops its characteristic creaminess.

Taste and season before serving with a handful of Pea Shoots and the rest of the ham hock, divided between warmed bowls.