Risotto, one of cooking’s greatest gifts to comfort food. For some reason, people have it in their head that making risotto is somehow difficult. Maybe it is watching too many episodes of Hell’s Kitchen, witnessing the torture each chef goes to to produce the finest in creamy, grainy goodness. Well, let’s shake that notion out of our pretty little heads shall we? Risotto is no more difficult than making Kraft Dinner. A little boiling, a little stirring, a chop here or there and you have a fine, creamy bowl of healthy yet decadent grains. It’s even got all the food groups! You’ve got dairy, grains, vegetables, fats and small amounts of protein! Hooray! You can spare the thanks for another day, this is just my gift to you today (hey that rhymed).
So why use barley? Good question. Though I could only find miscellaneous “barley” (although it was not white, so it may have been hulled) in our grocer’s bulk section, if you can get it, buy the hulled variety. You may need to increase the cooking time by 15-30 minutes, but the health benefits of using a whole grain far outweigh the inconvenience of cooking it a bit longer, if you can dig it. Pearl barley (the most commonly found variety) is quick cooking, and so a sort of convenience food, not unlike white rice. It is stripped of it’s natural bran and tough outer layers, also the healthiest bits, whereas whole grain barley is just that, whole grain. It is far superior in nutrition, and I imagine, taste (I’m still looking for it in my grocery).
Barley risotto does differ slightly from traditional arborio rice risottos in that it has a bit more texture. You may find yourself chewing your food slightly more thoroughly, as barley holds it’s texture through cooking. Arborio rice lends itself to adding a delicious creaminess to risotto without the addition of cream. Feel free to use arborio rice in this recipe too, it will turn out quite good.
Oh, and don’t spare the butter and cheese….
Barley Risotto with Peas
3/4 cup pearl or other quick cooking barley
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2-3 cups water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced very fine
salt & pepper
1 cup frozen spring peas (or fresh if they are in season!)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1-2 tbsp butter
2 oz soft goat’s cheese
1. Warm stock and water to simmering in small saucepan, turn off heat, cover and keep warm.
2. In large, heavy bottomed saucepan, heat butter. When melted, add onions and cook until softened.
3. Add in garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes.
4. Pour in barley and cook 4-6 minutes, just to allow grains to toast slightly.
5. Stir in rosemary and 1 cup of stock.
6. After first ladle of stock has been absorbed, continue to add 1 cup at a time, allowing it to become absorbed before adding more. Stir each time, but you do not have to continuously stir. This process should take about 30-45 minutes.
7. Add peas near end of cooking time, stirring thoroughly to allow peas to warm.
8. Add in butter and Parmesan just before removing from heat.
9. To serve, heap in bowls or on plates and top with crumbled goat’s cheese.