This is so good you might just be tempted to eat the whole lot on your own! If you can bear to share, serve it with a roast chicken or other meat, or with vegetable dishes.
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed 1 Tbsp olive oil 1½ Tbsp butter 1 cup pearl barley 1 cup unsalted chicken or vegetable stock 1¼ cups water ½ cup canned Italian tomatoes, crushed ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese ½ tsp salt, or to taste ½ cup basil leaves
1 Put onion and garlic in a saucepan with the oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Cover pan with a lid and cook gently for about 10 minutes, until softened. Wash barley in a sieve under running water, add to pan and cook for 1 minute, stirring, then add stock, water and tomatoes.
2 Bring to a gentle bubble, cover pan with a lid, then reduce heat to low. Cook very gently for 45 minutes, until barley is tender; the pilaf should be a little sloppy. Beat in remaining butter, parmesan cheese, salt to taste and a good grinding of black pepper. Tear half the basil leaves into smallish pieces and add. Serve hot garnished with remaining basil leaves.