Monday, 8 March 2010

Pearl Barley... Mmmm...

I'm trying to teach myself how to cook. I am a LOT more practised at eating food than cooking it, so I've set myself the challenge of cooking something new once a week for my housemates/guinea pigs.

Pearl barley is my new favourite foodstuff and I wanted to make something with this as the main ingredient. This grain has a low GI and is a great source of vitamin B - so it's not only yummy but full of goodness too! It's normally used in soups, stews or salads but I took inspiration from my delicious meal at Bocca di Lupo to use it as a risotto base. I had a flick through 'Jamie's Italy' and found the recipe for a 'Wild Mushroom and Parsley risotto'. Not a fan of parsley myself, I replaced it with rocket to get some good old greens in there and it worked a treat! So here's how to make 'Wild Mushroom and Rocket pearl barley risotto'...

Ingredients for 4 people -

For the risotto base:
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Few knobs of butter
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Half a chopped onion
1 chopped garlic clove
350g pearl barley
3 pints of Veg/chicken stock
1 glass of white wine
150g Parmesan
Half a lemon

For the tasty bits:
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Knob of butter
25g of dried porcini mushrooms
Half a pint of boiled water
15 smallish chestnut mushrooms, sliced
Fresh thyme is preferable but dried thyme is ok too
2 chopped garlic cloves
Sea salt
Black pepper

1. Preparation = Heat up the stock. Turn on the oven to 200 C. Chop up the onions and 1 clove of garlic and put aside. Slice the chestnut mushrooms and chop the other 2 garlic cloves and set aside so that it's ready to go a bit later. Grate the parmesan. Tear up the rocket/spinach. Add half a pint of boiled water to the dried porcini mushrooms in a glass bowl/jug. Let the porcinis sit and rehydrate for 30 mins and create a yummy stock.

2. Heat a knob of butter and tablespoon of olive oil in the pan you will use to cook the risotto. Cook the onion and garlic over a low heat for around 10 mins so that they go soft but do not colour. You want them to look translucent.

3. Once the onions and garlic have cooked, turn up the heat and fry the pearl barley for around 2 minutes, turning the grains over in the pan so that they are cooked all over. They do not go translucent like normal risotto rice, but just trust that after 2 minutes they are ready for the stock to be added. Add a pinch of sea salt and lots of black pepper (whatever your taste) to season, and the glass of white wine. Make sure that the pan is hot enough so that the alcohol burns off.

4. Add the first 2 ladle-fulls of stock. Stir and turn down the heat to medium high so that the pearl barley is simmering. Keep adding the stock so that the risotto is always well hydrated, and remember to stir continuously so that the risotto doesn't burn or stick together. Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in an oven tray and heat up in the oven.

5. In another frying pan heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once hot, sauté the sliced mushrooms and garlic for a minute. Then, add the sautéed mushrooms and garlic to the hot oven tray. Season with salt and pepper, and mix in a knob of butter and a handful of fresh thyme. Return the tray to the oven and roast for 5 - 6 minutes. Don't forget to keep stirring the risotto! Once the mushrooms are roasted, take out of the oven and put to the side.

6. Pour the porcini stock into the risotto and stir in. When the risotto is cooked to your liking, take off the heat. Add most of the parmesan (but leave a little bit so you have enough left to sprinkle on the top of each plate!), and another knob of butter if you want. Season with more salt if needed, and black pepper. Squeeze in half a lemon. Cover and let it rest. Heat up the plates.

7. Now time to mix in the rest of the ingredients... Stir in the roasted mushrooms and juices from the oven tray, porcini mushrooms and rocket. This is when it all comes together :)

8. Take the plates out from the oven and serve out your delicious Wild Mushroom and Rocket pearl barley risotto! Sprinkle a little bit of parmesan or thyme on the top, or both.

9. Enjoy! And have seconds....!



  1. explendit blog, congratulations
    regard from Reus Catalonia
    thank you

  2. Sounds delicious - love pearl barley risotto. In fact I'm serving it on the first night of the pop-up. Blog is great Orlaith, good work!

  3. Being a big fat guinea pig, I can say that really was utterly delicious!