This is a bit of a take on a risotto Milanese, which is basically a pan-fried risotto cake. Pearl barley is a pretty flexible ingredient like rice and can be used for all sorts of dishes. Used like this it's a great replacement for a starchy potato dish.
12 lamb's kidneys, halved and sinew removed
A little vegetable oil for frying
For the sauce
A good knob of butter
1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
tsp tomato purée
A glass of red wine
400ml beef stock
1tbsp grain mustard
For the pearl-barley cake
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp chopped thyme leaves
A couple of good knobs of butter
60g pearl barley, soaked in cold water for two hours then drained
About 750ml chicken stock
50g mature cheddar, grated
2tbsp plain flour
2 small eggs beaten
40-50g fresh white breadcrumbs
To make the sauce, heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-based saucepan and fry the onion for a few minutes until lightly coloured. Dust with the flour and stir well, then add the tomato purée and gradually stir in the red wine and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about an hour or so. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve and simmer until the sauce has thickened, then whisk in the mustard and remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, for the pearl-barley cake, gently cook the onion, garlic and thyme in the butter for 2-3 minutes, then add the pearl barley and stir well over a low heat for a minute. Gradually add the chicken stock in around four batches, season and cook on a very low heat, stirring every so often until the pearl barley is soft and tender. Remove from the heat, stir in the cheese, taste and season more if necessary, then leave to cool. Once cool, mould into four flat cakes about 8-9cm wide, with the help of a spatula or palette knife.
Have three dishes ready, one for the flour, one for the egg and the third for the breadcrumbs. Carefully coat the cakes in the flour, shaking off any excess then dip in the beaten eggs and finally in the breadcrumbs, pushing the crumbs well into the cakes with your hands. Re-shape if necessary and flatten a little and refrigerate until required.
Next, heat some vegetable oil in a non-stick or heavy frying pan and cook the pearl-barley cakes for 3-4 minutes on each side, adding some butter when you turn them over, then keep warm in a low oven. While the pearl-barley cakes are cooking, season the lamb's kidneys, heat the vegetable oil on a ribbed griddle plate or heavy frying pan and cook on a medium heat for a couple of minutes on each side, keeping them nice and pink; then leave to rest for a few minutes. Lay the kidneys on top of the pearl-barley cakes, then heat the sauce and pour around.