A couple of weeks ago I was rifling through our kitchen cupboards in a fit of hunger. I was bored and when I’m bored I snack, don’t we all?! As I was searching high and low, right in to the back of often touched shelves I found my hand landing on a bag of pearl barley. Pearl barley?!
I’ve never cooked with pearl barley before – I had no idea what it was even doing in there! Did I buy it or was it an obscure house warming gift last year?
A quick Google of ‘pearl barley’ and ‘pearl barley recipes’ soon taught me that pearl barley is a substitute for Arborio rice in risotto dishes! Who would’ve thought? To make it even better, it’s also much lower in calories making pearl barley risotto a healthy dinner. I was really on to a winner here…
After a couple of attempts at the perfect pear barley risotto, I soon settled on this recipe – Winter Pearl Barley and Butternut Squash Risotto.
Pearl barley has a nutty flavour which pairs really well with the sweet, earthy taste of butternut squash and chestnut mushrooms. Sticking with the healthy risotto recipe idea, 0% crème fraiche worked brilliantly to cut through the richness of the dish as well as giving it the signature, creamy risotto texture.
The process for making pearl barley risotto is not all that different to a traditional risotto so I’ve kept the steps relatively simple and they should be familiar to you if you’ve cooked risotto just once before.
As with any risotto recipe it does require a fair amount of stirring so I’d definitely recommend opening a bottle of wine while you cook – chef’s perks!
- 1 small white onion, diced
- 400g butternut squash, peeled and seeds removed
- Handful of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
- 1 red pepper, sliced
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 500ml vegetable stock
- 125g pearl barley
- 2 tbsp low fat creme fraiche
- 1 sprig of sage
- Salt and pepper to season
- 2 handfuls of rocket leaves
- 1 tbsp oil
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Fry off the diced onion and butternut squash for 10 mins until the onion is translucent and the butternut squash has begun to soften.
- Add the crushed garlic, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms, then cook gently for 5 more minutes.
- Once the mushrooms and other vegetables have cooked through, add the pearl barley to the pan and cook on a high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add a ladle of stock along with the bay leaf and stir. Let this bubble away until the pearl barley has absorbed it.
- Keep adding the stock a little at a time until the pearl barley is tender and the vegetables have cooked.
- Remove the bay leaf and stir in the creme fraiche. Let this cook for a final few minutes until the dish is piping hot. Season with the salt and pepper before serving on a bed of rocket.
- Garnish with a little more sage.
The first time I served this pearl barley risotto recipe to Jon (my better half) he was more than impressed. Risotto is one of his favourite dinners so I was worried that I would have a hard time impressing him. Fortunately for me he wolfed it down!
I love as well how this recipe gives the chance for seasonal vegetables to be the star! This is now well up there in my top 10 vegetarian risotto recipes, though I’ll try to only cook it when squash is in season.
I’m glad I stumbled across my rouge bag of pearl barley now and I’m sure it will become a store cupboard staple for us!
Do you ever find random ingredients lurking at the bag of your cupboards? Perhaps you’ve come up with similar recipes after finding something exciting in the bag of yours?
I’d love for you to share them in the comments!