Tag Archives: pearl barley

Pearl barley risotto with mushrooms, leek and chestnuts

Mushroom barley risotto

Mushroom risotto is wonderful – intense bold earthy flavours with creamy, unctuous rice – and surely is one of the ultimate vegetarian comfort dishes. I recently tried beetroot risotto for the first time and although this vibrant, crimson delight was an unusual and delicious risotto, it wasn’t enough to knock the mushroom variety off the top spot. Squash with blue cheese and crispy sage is also heavenly and is up there on the list but it’s the strong punch of the dried porcini – in my opinion – that elevates the mushroom version ahead of the rest.

I’ve previously made this risotto with Arborio or Carnarori rice and produces an incredibly creamy and satisfying meal. Using pearl barley as an alternative rice gives a slight bite and nuttiness to the dish that is very different but by no means less enjoyable. It’s also a lot easier to cook than Arborio rice as you can add the liquid in one batch then leave it to absorb, rather than the more labour intensive method of adding the stock in small ladlefuls combined with lots of constant stirring.

In an ideal world, you would make this dish with wild mushrooms during autumn when they are in season. However, they are eye wateringly expensive and I live in zone 2 London so sadly foraging for my own is out of the question. This surely is a reason alone to move out of the Kilburn urban jungle to living The Good Life near woodland, countryside and open space. For now the supermarket will have to suffice for the mushrooms required and varieties such as portobello, chestnut, enoki, shitake and oyster are widely available. The risotto will make much more interesting eating if you have a medley of mushrooms with different flavours and textures, so see what you can find. If you can’t source a mixture of mushrooms then increase the amount of chestnuts.

I have borrowed Jamie Oliver’s method of introducing some mushrooms at the beginning and then the remainder at the end that I fry over a high heat until golden and use to top the risotto. It all makes for a taste sensation risotto so tuck in and enjoy!

Why not post your suggestions for other risotto recipes you consider the best and think will rival my mushroom one?

Serves 2, generously

10g dried porcini mushrooms
400ml hot vegetable stock
130g mixed mushrooms, sliced (chestnut, oyster, shitake)
40g butter
1 small leek, cut into thin rounds
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200g pearl barley
2 tbsp tarragon, chopped
Glass of white wine
10 cooked chestnuts, halved (Merchant Gourmet are good)
2 tbsp crème fraiche
25g Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbsp olive oil
Large handful of chopped parsley

  1. Put the dried porcini in a jug and pour in 250ml of boiling water. Set aside for 20 minutes to infuse. Drain, reserving both mushrooms and the soaking liquid, ensuring any grit at the bottom gets left behind. Combine the porcini liquid with the vegetable stock into a saucepan and put on a low heat. Roughly chop the mushrooms and set aside.
  2. Heat 25g of the butter in a large frying pan over a low heat until foaming and then add the leeks. Fry gently until beginning to turn translucent, about 8 minutes, add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
  3. Add the pearl barley and the tarragon to the pan and give a good stir so that so everything is well combined. Turn up the heat, add the white wine and bubble until almost absorbed.
  4. Add half of the mushrooms and all of the hot stock. Stir well and simmer on a low heat until the liquid has nearly absorbed. This should take about 15 minutes.
  5. Put a frying pan over a high heat, add the remaining butter and a tablespoon of olive oil. Fry the remaining mushrooms for about 1 minute, with some salt and pepper until golden all over.
  6. Stir the chestnuts into the risotto, along with the crème and parmesan. Heat through for about a minute.
  7. Serve the risotto in bowls topped with the fried mushrooms, a scattering of chopped parsley and some extra grated parmesan.

Roast cauliflower, chorizo & chickpea salad

roast cauliflower chorizo chickpea salad

Like a lot of people, my childhood experience of eating cauliflower is a negative one with cooked-to-death florets smothered in a heavy cheese sauce or, in my case, a basic white sauce. Sorry mum! In some restaurants I also have memories of it being served as a side dish in a medley of boiled vegetables, such as carrots and broccoli, to accompany meat or fish. Poor cauliflower was reserved to the sidelines and it’s no wonder I gave it a wide berth for many years.

There are not many ingredients I dislike and I struggled with olives for years, which I found overly bitter, but my perseverance eventually paid off. I have to admit, I’m still a bit scared by the huge green ones as they can be so strong tasting but generally I love them now. So I thought I’d try the same dogged approach with cauliflower. Since I have started to eat cauliflower again I have tried it in a spicy curry, a creamy velvety soup and pureed with scallops and black pudding but I had never had roasted cauliflower. Boy, have I been missing out! As with most ingredients that are roasted, it really enhances the flavour, but it was an absolute revelation. Delicious!

So I arrived home today with a perfect looking cauliflower flower and decide to team it up with some oak-smoked chorizo that I have been meaning to use. This warm salad made a really satisfying lunch on a cold, wet day (in May!) and once I had cleared my plate I scoffed the remaining roast cauliflower as it was just too good to waste. I confess that I found slicing the cauliflower looked good in the finished photo but it was quite crumbly and wasted too much, so I would recommend cutting small florets instead.

Serves 4 for lunch or 2 for dinner
15 minutes, plus 40 minutes (is using dried chick peas)

1 cauliflower
75g chickpeas (soaked overnight)
125g pearl barley
150g chorizo, sliced
50g Manchego or Parmesan, grated
2-3 fat garlic cloves
Generous handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp of olive oil, and extra for drizzling
1 lemon
Salt and pepper

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C / gas 4 / 350F.
  2. Put the chickpeas and pearl barley in two separate saucepans and cover with lots of cold water. Simmer the chickpeas for 40-45 minutes until tender and the pearl barley for about 20 minutes. The pearl barley should still retain a slight bite. Add them both into the same saucepan. Finely chop the parsley, add a drizzle of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile trim the root from the cauliflower and chop into small florets. Coarsely chop the garlic and add to a large bowl with the olive oil, juice of half a lemon and some salt and pepper. Add the cauliflower to the bowl and coat completely. Spread out on a non-stick baking tray and roast for 20-25 minutes, turning once half way through. Check the cauliflower with a fork and when it’s nearly cooked add the cheese and the juice of the remaining half a lemon.  Stir in the pearl barley and chickpeas and time for about another 5 minutes, until the cauliflower is cooked through.
  4. Slice the chorizo and cook for a minute each side in a frying pan.
  5. Spoon the cauliflower mixture onto plates, add the chorizo and a further sprinkling of chopped parsley, if you like.

roast cauliflower, chorizo and chickpea salad