Personally I think risotto is highly overrated, it is tasteless, chalky and in times when electricity is expensive, it takes enormous amounts of energy to cook. A great alternative which is easy, cooks faster and tastes far better than risotto is pearl barley. And in South Africa, pearl barley is dirt cheap in comparison to the highly expensive imported risottos. What’s more you’ll save the planet as barley travels much less to your table than risotto. Barley does the good short journey, risotto, long carbon loaded journey. And, this recipe is a great option for Meat Free Mondays. Do you need more reasons to add pearl barley to your menu?
Pearl barley is barley processed to remove its hull and bran. Barley must have its fibrous outer hull removed before it can be eaten; pearl barley is taken a step further by being polished to remove the bran layer.
Pearl barley is the most common form of barley for human consumption, because it cooks faster and is less chewy than other forms of barley.
Pearl barley is similar to wheat in its caloric, protein, vitamin and mineral content, though it differs in that it is high in lysine. It is cooked mainly in soups and stews, also as an ingredient for stuffing cooked potages or sweet dishes. It is the primary ingredient of the Italian dish orzotto.
My Recipe to warm your heart and tummy and is enough for 4-6 persons.
- 500g cooked pearl barley
- 300g diced butternut
- 50ml Olive oil
- 125ml Vegetable Stock plus extra
- 75ml Dry White Wine
- 80ml Cream
- 3 tsp of unsalted butter
- 1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
- 1 tsp crushed garlic
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 200g grated parmesan cheese plus extra for shavings
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Bake the diced butternut drizzled with the olive oil in the oven at 180°C covered until soft but still very firm. If it is too soft the butternut will disintegrate during the later cooking stages. Reserve the water and oil stock that has cooked out during this stage and add it to your vegetable stock for more flavour and depth.
- To cook the pearl barley, follow the instructions on the packaging, please do not add salt to this cooking stage at it will toughen the barley and do not wash the barley as that will remove the gluten to make it sticky like risotto. 250 – 300ml dry pearl barley will make about 500g cooked pearl barley.
- To make the risotto style pearl barley, start by frying the chopped onion in the butter over low heat in a large frying pan, once the onions are translucent, add the garlic, caraway seeds and nutmeg and fry all for a few seconds, then add the cooked pearl barley and mix it all very well.
- Add the stock and wine and allow the alcohol to cook off and reduce the fluids by half.
- Add the butternut and cream and if you feel you need more liquid, you can add some at this stage, but be careful not to add too much, your dish will become too runny.
- Once the whole dish has a creamy, thick and runny consistency you can add the parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and mix well to integrate all the cheese in the dish.
- You are ready to serve now. Laddle a large portion for each person onto the plate and sprinkle with a few parmesan shavings and some sage leaves. Serve with a cold Sauvignon Blanc. Can also be served in a smaller portion as a starter.
Chef’s Hint: Add a selection of mushrooms for an even tastier dish! And if you are a die-hard meat-eater, a few slices of seared chorizo makes a lovely addition.