Barley, Mushroom & Spinach Risotto
I had the cookery group round recently and we explored making risotti. We did a tomato and sausage risotto, a beetroot risotto, and this barley, mushroom and spinach risotto. Well actually, it was barley and mushroom risotto, I added the spinach the next time I made it and I might even add some garlicky roasted onions and carrots next time as well. They were all really good and I’ll be writing up the other recipes later on.
Risotti are very good vehicles for many bits and pieces left in the fridge that aren’t enough to make a whole meal with. So, that half tin of tomatoes, a solitary slice of meat, a few spinach leaves at the bottom of the bag and a couple of leftover roasted carrots for instance. What’s in there, have a rummage.
Can I make risotto without wine?
All recipes that I have seen for risotto use white wine, or sometimes red wine, usually 125ml in a 4 portion recipes. It’s a signature ingredient and one that I have used for years, but then thought about why.
The white wine brings flavour and a brightness of acidity, balancing out the richness of lots of butter and parmesan. Much like a splash of lemon juice or vinegar in a soup, right at the end. However, both and red and white wine vinegars have flavour profiles that are very similar to wine and can be substituted in many things.
I have started using white wine vinegar in soup that I buy in 5 litre packs and use for everything from descaling the kettle to that acidity in the soup. So I thought that it could probably do the same job in risotto, and sure enough, it does. You need to use 25% of the amount of white wine you would have used. So if the recipe calls for 125ml, use 30ml. If you use the whole 125ml, the vinegar would be much too strong and the finished dish would be unpleasantly acidic.
How Do I Make Barley & Mushroom Risotto?
Boil the kettle and get the parmesan ready by grating it for the risotto and shaving a little for the topping.
For 4 portions, sauté an onion and some garlic until transparent. Add mushrooms, thyme leaves, a beef stock pot, pearl barley and the white wine vinegar. Now add 500ml boiling water and simmer gently, with the lid on, until absorbed
Add a further 500ml water and simmer gently until the water is absorbed and the barley is soft and tender. This will take 30-45 minutes in total.
If it is not done yet, add another 250ml hot water and continue simmering.
Stir in the parmesan and remaining butter. Stir until evenly distributed.
Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if required, although if you use the stock pots, you won’t need any more seasoning.
When ready to serve, sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and a few fresh thyme leaves
I first made this using a Knorr beef stock pot and it added so much flavour. The stock pots also come in chicken and vegetable flavours, so I’ll try those. And of course I’ll see what its like made with home made chicken stock – my favourite!
What is this risotto like?
It has a deeply savoury flavour from the stock which I really like. Next time I make it, I think I’ll experiment with a different stock. The mushrooms also contribute umami to this barley risotto.
The stock is super important in this dish, as it is in a risotto made with rice, as the barley or rice absorbs the stock as it cooks, adding a lot of flavour to the cooked grains. Pearl barley is often used in British soups and stews to give a lovely creamy texture to the broth and it is this characteristic of the grain that makes it work so well in a risotto. You must use stock in a risotto, it will be watery and disappointing if you just use water to cook the grains.
The pearl barley is wonderfully chewy and nutty. Barley has an exceptionally low GI, which makes it very sustaining, keeping you going for hours, and in this comparison, barley is superior to rice which has a very high GI. It’s so filling, you only need a small amount.
What changes can I make?
- Use a different stock pot for a completely different flavour. They come in chicken or vegetable as well as beef.
- Or use a home made stock, always delicious. Chicken is my favourite – it supplies so much flavour.
- If you don’t want to use parmesan, it isn’t vegetarian, you can use another full flavoured cheese, a good strong mature cheddar for example.
- Omit the spinach, or use shredded cabbage
- Add some roasted carrot chunks, or any other roasted vegetables
- Omit the parmesan / cheddar and sprinkle over feta generously
Would you like some more risotti ideas?
A leek and pea risotto with basa features in one of these 5 menus that feed you and a significant other, 3 courses for less than a quid each!
Or here is a chicken and pea version as part of a series of posts on how to get 28 portions from 1 medium sized chicken.
- 190 g pearl barley
- 80 g spinach frozen
- 250 g mushrooms
- 100 g onion
- 50 g butter
- 2 cloves garlic
- a few fresh thyme leaves £1.25 plant
- 30 ml white wine vinegar
- 1 Knorr beef stock pot
- 40 g parmesan
- 1000 ml total amount of boiling, or very hot, water
- a few fresh thyme leaves to sprinkle, optional
- 20 g parmesan optional
- Boil the kettle
- Grate the parmesan for the risotto and make the shavings for the topping
- Peel and chop the onion
- Peel and chop the garlic finely
- Using half the butter, saute the onion and garlic until transparent
- Add mushrooms, thyme leaves, the stock pot, pearl barley and the white wine vinegar.
- Now add half the boiling water and simmer gently, with the lid on, until that is also absorbed1000 ml total amount of boiling, or very hot, water
- Add the other half of the boiling water and simmer gently until the water is absorbed and the barley is soft and tender.
- If it is not done yet, add another 250ml hot water and continue simmering.
- Stir in the parmesan and the remaining butter. Stir until evenly distributed
- Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if required
- When ready to serve, sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and a few fresh thyme leaves