Monday, 5 September 2011

Barley risotto with mushrooms, leeks and roasted garlic

Autumn is here. The first signs came with the sweet scent of mulching leaves and the golden early morning sun last week. A couple of the smaller, over ripe tomatoes have started to rot on the vine, and we’ve just switched the central heating back on.

The summer had its last hurrah over the weekend, one last splash of hazy warmth before the rain sets in proper. I was overjoyed to see my huge and beautiful Black Russian tomatoes take on a deep burgundy hue as they sunbathed. In my mind they had already been consigned to a batch of green tomato chutney.

I’m craving something more comforting than the leaf salads that have been my suppers over the last few months, and this pearl barley risotto neatly fits the bill. Not quite the stodge of a pile of mashed potato but warming none the less. The barley gives this a more toothsome bite than rice and doesn’t demand that you spend hours ladling and stirring – the liquid can all be added at once. A lazy risotto then, but still delicious.

Serves 2

2 whole heads of garlic, cloves separated, skin on
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
15g butter
1 tsp picked fresh thyme
½ small leek (white part only), finely chopped
150g mixed mushrooms (perhaps shitake, enoki, chanterelles or porcini), sliced
200g pearl barley, well rinsed in cold water and drained
800ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp mascarpone
25g parmesan, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
To decorate: micro leaf garlic chives (optional)

1) Toss the garlic cloves in a tablespoon of the olive oil and place in a shallow ovenproof dish. Bake for 25 minutes at 375f/190c/gas mark 5, then leave to cool. Slip each clove out of its papery sleeve and roughly chop.

2) Meanwhile, take two more tablespoons of the oil and fry the mushrooms in a large frying pan until golden brown, then set aside.

3) Using the same pan, heat the butter and the last of the oil and fry the leeks over a medium heat until they are soft and translucent. Add the pearl barley, thyme, garlic and stock, and leave to simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until the barley is soft but still has a little bite in the centre. If the pan runs dry, add a little more water. Once cooked, stir in the mushrooms, parmesan and mascarpone, and season with a little black pepper.


  1. Not sure of etiquette but wanted to post here just in case your followers here don't do twitter. I made this recipe tonight and it was amazing - slightly jaw dropping to see amount of garlic, but pungency quelled by roasting in oven first, phew! Didn't have any leftovers for arancini, as you suggested, but will definitely make double next time so that I can try out these little balls of delight - with mozzarella in the middle? It feels good trying new recipes, will keep an eye out and try some more. Thanks. Nikki

  2. Hi Nikki - I'm so glad you liked it (and the hubby too!). If you try the arancini you must let me know how it works out, the mozarella centre sounds delish!

  3. This looks amazing! What are the pretty wispy greens that garnish the dish? They're so pretty!

  4. Aren't they?! They were a new experiment - micro leaf garlic chives. They've just started selling them in Sainsbury's, or I hear they're pretty easy to grow from seed if you have a spare windowsill.

    Personally, I'm very tempted to try the micro leaf purple basil available here: Beautiful! And tasty too I'm guessing..

  5. The perfect comfort food. I love a nice hot bowl of risotto on a crisp fall night... I usually load mine with different types of mushrooms like shiitake, crimini, oyster and a little bunch of enoki on top for garnish! Thanks for sharing, it looks wonderful!
    - Brittany

  6. Spotted this recipe in Stylist this morning - congrats! And I'm very glad they featured you, because it means I've discovered your fab blog! I love pearl barley (and garlic...) and will definitely be giving this one a go.

  7. I just wanted you to know that I included your recipe in a leek round up. I will be pinning and tweeting it this week too.

    1. Hi Diane, thanks for the link x Hope you're enjoying the leek-fest!


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