Traditionally risotto is made with Italian arborio rice–a round variety that plumps up well as it absorbs liquid, while still retaining a bite at its centre.
As white rice–a carbohydrate converting more quickly to sugar–it’s not ideal for those with diabetes.
Pearl barley is an acceptable substitute. It has a delicious nuttiness all it own while modestly hosting the mushrooms and leeks (in this case).
This takes a little time but when you come to cook it, the zen of making risotto (!) kicks in and it becomes a quiet meditation followed by a satisfying chew.
Risotto has the virtue of being a meal-in-one dish–eventually!
As with omelettes, you add the the subject to the base and serve it in one.
This is adapted from an original recipe by Emma Booth who won a prize with it in Stylist.co.uk magazine!
2 garlic heads–cloves separated but skin left on
4 tbsps olive oil
1 oz dried mushrooms–soaked in 200ml warm water.
(These are not always easy to find but they’re a good taste engine, adding depth to the dish.)
(If you can’t get dried mushrooms, just use the 200ml warm water!)
200g fresh mushrooms–sliced thin
11/2 leeks–chopped fine
200g pearl barley–rinsed thoroughly until the water runs clear
1 tsp fresh thyme–chopped
600ml stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes
2 tblsps white wine
black pepper and salt
heat the oven to 190C/380F
- Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour over 200ml hot water–leave to soften for 20 minutes.
- Then strain into a bowl, reserving the liquid.
- Chop the mushrooms ready for use.
- Put the garlic cloves in a bowl and mix with a tablespoon of olive oil.
- Empty them onto a shallow oven tray.
- Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until they are soft–and set aside to cool.
- Peel them and fork them into a mush–this is a messy business but it ends with a satisfying licking of the fingers.
- Heat two tablespoons of oil in a pan and sauté the mushrooms until they start to colour (this happens after they have released their moisture), then set aside.
- Heat the last tablespoon of oil in a medium casserole (the one in which you will serve the risotto) and sauté the leeks over a medium heat until they soften and colour a little.
- Add the wine and let it evaporate, stirring the while.
- Mix in the pearl barley, thyme and cooked garlic mush.
- Have the stock in a pan close by–simmering on a low heat.
- Add the stock a ladle at a time, stirring often, taking care the mix doesn’t catch.
- Followed by the mushroom water–if you are using dried mushrooms–or warm water if not.
- When the barley is soft but still has a little bite in the centre–this took about 20 minutes this morning–the risotto is ready for the mushrooms–dry and fresh.
- Add them and stir in, followed by the parmesan cheese.
- Season with black pepper and salt.
- Meredith recommended a sprinkling of parsley at the finish–and she’s right!