bits and pieces

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Creamy Two-Mushroom Barley Risotto

Creamy, creamy risotto with two kinds of mushrooms. Making  risotto with barley is a fun and healthy
twist!
So please forgive the brown-y photo as mushroom risotto is not necessarily the prettiest thing to try and photograph. However, it is certainly one of my favourite things to eat in the whole wide world. I think risotto was one of the first 'grown up' dishes I learned how to cook properly. My grad school roommate Madison was a much much better cook than I, and she cooked risotto perfectly on the regular. It was a pretty good house to live in.

Now there are many different kinds of risotto.. you can have it pretty much any which way you want it, but for me mushroom risotto is and will always be the classic. This might have something to do with my overwhelming love of ze fungi. When I was in Taiwan this winter I smuggled home a giant bag of dried king oyster mushrooms. Shh... don't tell Vic Toews.



Now barley is another strange addiction of mine - I love it. I just like the taste, the feel and the texture. Barley is barely bad for you. Sorry. It's good for you. Protein, complex carb-y things and fibre. There's a reason the Scots love barely soup. Switching  in barley for arborio rice made this risotto a teeny bit healthier and also allowed me to make risotto when I was out of arborio. Win? Win. This is not the fastest or easiest meal - any risotto requires lots of attention and frequent (near constant) stirring. Barley cooks slower than rice which means longer cook time and yup, more stirring. That said - the more you stir the creamier and more delicious this gets. Pour a big glass of wine and settle in for a heavy, hearty and cheap Friday night feast.

ingredients: 
4 cups of diced mushrooms. I normally use cremini - they're tiny portabello mushrooms and they're delicious and brown and healthy looking. This time round I used 3 cups of diced cremini mushrooms and 1 cup of dried Asia-mushrooms. I know 4 cups of mushrooms sounds like an insane amount of mushrooms but they will shrink up as they cook and also, it's like 30 mushrooms. It's totally not THAT crazy. 
3 stalks of celery, diced. 
1 big onion, diced. 
2 cloves of garlic, minced. 
4 cups of stock 
2 cups of pearl barley
3 tbsp butter (nom nom)
splash of milk
a bottle of white wine for drinking + splashing into your risotto
1 bay leaf
1 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp thyme
1/3 cup parmesan, grated. 
salt/pepper

other things you will need:
a pot to cook your stock in (if needed)
knives and cutting board
a big pot to make your risotto in (I used my le creuset pot for the first time! Eeee!)
a stirrin' spoon
things to grate with - if necessary


NOTE: If you are using dried mushrooms you will have to rehydrate them. Cover them with boiled (hot) water and set aside for about 30 minutes. Squeeze out all the juice from the now rehydrated mushrooms. SAVE YOUR MUSHROOM WATER. It will serve as a mushroom-y stock. 


  1. Prep all your ingredients and have them waiting for you. You don't have to have your mushrooms rehydrated but you should stick them in the hot water around this time. 
  2. In your big pot heat 2 tbsp of butter. Once it's all melty and delicious, add your garlic. Saute for a minute or two. 
  3. Add your onion and celery and bay leaf and stir around until it's all buttery. Cook for a minute. 
  4. Add your barrrrrrley. Preferably in a pirate voice. Stir IT all around until it's buttery and good. Cook for a minute or so. 
  5. Add a good bit of wine. About enough to cover your barley. Stir, stir, stir, stir and stir some more. Seriously - stir it for like 2 minutes. Then walk away. When it looks like it needs more liquid - add stock and then stir, stir and stir some more, and then walk away. Drink your wine. Add more stock. Stirstirstir. Walk away. Repeat for about 30 minutes. Don't worry if you don't use all your stock. If your mushroom-juice looks ready at any point in this process, swap it in for the stock. It will add even more mushroom-y earthiness to your risotto. 
  6. At some point in this process feel free to sprinkle in your  rosemary and thyme. I'm sure there is a 'professional' time to add your herbs, but I like to add them whenever I'm desperately bored with stirring and need to feel like I'm doing something cooking-ish. 
  7. After about 30-35 minutes of drinking, stocking and stirring, take a nibble. Eh? Hopefully it's starting to be risotto textured. Add your mushrooms and a splash of milk. Stir. Add some stock (if necessary) and cook (while stirring!!!) for another 10 minutes or so. 
  8. Taste again. Risotto-y? A little al dente but creamy and good? Good! STIRRRRR it some more! 
  9. Add your remaining butter, and about half of the parmesan. Stir. Put a lid on your pot, turn off the heat and walk away for 5 minutes. Assemble serving dishes and drink more wine if you're still standing. 
  10. Dish out risotto into bowls and top with remaining cheese and a goodly amount of black pepper. Nom. Nom nom. Nom. 
  11. Since your wrists are sore from all the stirring ensure someone feeds you like the babe(/baby) that you are. The. End. 

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