Barley Risotto: A Different take on the Delicious Classic
Risotto is a classic dish, traditionally made with arborio rice that’s cooked slowly in stock with additional flavours such as vegetables and herbs. It's then finished with a lot of butter, parmesan cheese and cream. It’s a creamy, flowing dish - often served in a bowl - that people love. It’s by no means healthy but it’s definitely good when it’s prepared properly. One of the largest difficulties people have with risotto is the doneness of the rice, it needs to have a little bite to it, but it can’t be hard. If it’s too soft, the risotto will just turn to mush and be no good.
A simple solution is to take a spin on the classic and replace the rice with barley. When barley is fully cooked, it has a natural chewiness to it and it will hold it’s form for a very long time without falling down into a puree, making it an ideal substitute for arborio rice in the traditional risotto. The barley adds a sort of heartiness to the dish, and it takes the flavours of everything else very well.
Make Barley Risotto
Sweat diced shallots, garlic and bell peppers
Add the raw barley and coat in the fat. The barley should all be shiny
Add cool stock, enough to cover the barley and slowly heat it
Stir regularly, to ensure there’s nothing sticking to the bottom of the pan. As the barley cooks, the liquid will decrease in volume. Add enough liquid to cover the barley as the other liquid evaporates. Traditionally, this is done 7 times, but that will vary depending on the cooking conditions.
Test the barley’s doneness. Take a little bit of the barley out of the pot with a spoon and eat it to see if it’s done. It should be slightly firm, but by no means hard.
Add butter, cream and parmesan to the risotto. Taste to see if there’s enough. Make it to suit your tastes. Here you can add spices, herbs and seasonings too
Serve the risotto immediately once it’s finished. A risotto is only perfect for a few minutes. You don't want to leave it sitting around.
Some flavour ideas:
- Tomato and basil barley risotto
- Lavender, roasted garlic and bacon barley risotto
- tarragon, dill and lemon barley risotto
- caramelized onion and ginger barley risotto
Like with many things in cooking, the possibilities are endless. Make some barley risotto and people will love it. They’ll even ask you for the recipe. Because the risotto is such a rich side, it’s best paired with something lighter like a chicken breast or fish. Play around with the flavours to find something you love and make it your own.