Barley Risotto with Roasted Veggies and Spinach..

Last night I made a barley risotto, and after I’d started cooking I turned on MKR  (My Kitchen Rules) to find they were making it in the grand finale.. Sixth Sense???

The reason I made it had nothing to do with MKR and more to do with Alcohol Free April – which turned into Alcohol Free 3 weeks. We were strict 99% of the time, however after 3 weeks I guess we thought we would see some results. So far all we had noticed was that it was easier to get up on a Saturday and Sunday morning! We went for early walks, we enjoyed sitting at local cafes having a leisurely breakfast, and ate very healthy food – as that’s what we craved. The one upside I had noticed was that I seemed to have lost some of the pudge around my middle that was hard to shift.. a few centremetres of bloat, just gone. Amazing.

So how what did all this have to do with barley risotto? This last few days we decided that we had done what we had wanted, we had proven to ourselves we could do it, we had given our bodies a break – and we decided, being ANZAC day it was right to honour my grandfather, and those who fought, with a beer at the RSL. And some red wine with dinner. Friday was a tough day at work for my amazing boyfriend so the rest of the red went well with our chicken and salsa wraps. Saturday turned out to be an amazing day weather wise so we celebrated our return to alcohol with some beer on the  balcony. And this brings me back to my point. Today we woke up feeling crap. Our usual walk was questioned – but we dragged ourselves out knowing it would help. We were drained and sluggish and when dinner rolled around all we wanted was  something simple, full of vegetables, fresh, healthy, and tasty.

We had Arborio rice but for some reason I wasn’t sold.  I went through our pantry in my mind and remembered I’d bought biodynamic barley at the beautiful shop around the corner from uni (Spelt Quinoa – Fitzroy). I googled to see what quantities to use with what and made it up from there!

It was everything I had hoped, warm, comforting, healthy, and filling and the added benefit was that it was light.. sometimes risotto can be a bit dense and heavy, but with barley, whilst it was less cohesive, it still had the creamy texture with the added benefit of being full of whole grains.

Barley is full of fibre which helps us metabolise fats, reduces cholesterol in the blood due to its beta glucan content, reduces the risk of colon cancer, and makes short chain fatty acids which are an important fuel source for our cells. It is also a good source of selenium and other vitamins and minerals.

Barley Risotto with Roast Veggies and Spinach

  • 1 cup Barley
  • 4 Cups of stock
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/4 Cup White Wine/Verjuice
  • Herbs/spices – I used cumin, oregano, basil and parsley
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 capsicum
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 spring onions
  • parmesan
  • Olive oil
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • Handfull of spinach
  • 2 large mushrooms, chopped
  • labne – optional

Start by chopping all of your veggies into cubes and preparing them for roasting with a drizzle of olive oil, and some cumin sprinkled on top. You can use whichever veggies you like – I just raided the fridge. Pop them in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for around 30 – 50 minutes depending on your oven, your roasting tray and veg size.

Veg in oven

Once the veggies are underway grab 2 pots, fill one with the stock and add  the chopped garlic and onion to the other with a drizzle of olive or coconut oil. Allow the stock to boil and then reduce it to a slow simmer.


Soften the onion and garlic until slightly translucent, and throw in a bay leaf and some herbs – as mentioned I used dried basil, parsley and oregano, but would have loved to add thyme or rosemary if i’d had some available.


Add the barley to the onion/garlic/oil mixture and stir for 2 -3  minutes allowing it to become coated and warmed. Pour in the white wine or verjuice (great non alcoholic alternative) to deglaze the pan and then its’s time to start adding the stock!


The process is the same as with arborio rice – add in a ladle full of stock at a time and allow it to be absorbed before adding the next ladle. The benefit with barley I found was that it was less likely to stick and didn’t need constant stirring. I added a few more herbs after a taste test, and some salt and pepper – just go with what you feel is right. When the barley is almost at your preferred texture add in the mushrooms and spinach and allow to wilt slightly.

mix together

When the veggies are roasted, and the barley has softened to your liking add it all together in the pot with some spring onions and parmesan cheese, stir, and serve! I found that it took around 40 minutes to get the barley to the consistency we wanted, however I probably could have had it on a higher heat – possibly reducing the time. I would also like to try it in the thermomix as that produces wonderful risottos..


Viola! I gave it to the boyfriend and he said ‘Oh, Yum!’. We didn’t have any leftovers. If you were making this as a main dish for more than 2 people I would increase the amount of Barley. I wish i’d made enough to have some today but alas… I’m sure we will be making it again soon.

The reason the labne is optional is because I forgot to add it at the end. I went to the trouble of draining some greek yoghurt and then left it on the bench! I did stir a bit through when having seconds and it was divine, it added a creaminess that I will certainly remember next time..

I love experimenting with new recipes – and this base can now be used for so many other risott0 combinations – what should we try next??

M xx


2 Ingredient Pizza Dough, and the Meal Plan Update

Dear me – where has this month gone?! My meal planning so far has only amounted to trolling through countless recipe books, writing down a list of great recipes, and building a list of staples/options for shopping.

We haven’t had takeaway once though and whilst we haven’t planned ahead for the week, we have planned each day and made some pretty yummy stuff.

Since starting our alcohol free month I would estimate we have saved over $200 although I haven’t noticed any other effects healthwise.

Here is a list of our meals for the last week – We were out Monday and Tuesday:

  • Wednesday 3rd April – Five Spice Beef Stir fry with veggies
  • Thursday 4th April – Balsamic Marinated Chicken with BBQ Corn and Homemade Sweet Potato Wedges
  • Friday 5th April – Out with friends at After the Tears, an amazing Polish Restaurant in Elsterwick
  • Saturday 6th April – Dumplings at China Red (AMAZING) before the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (Hilarious)
  • Sunday 7th April – ‘Summer’ Lasagne – Recipe to come
  • Monday 8th April – Leftovers
  • Tuesday 9th April – Homemade Pizza with Fig, Pear and Rocket Salad – Recipe to come.

I’m going to start with the Homemade Pizza recipe, rather than the lasagne, as it was so much fun to make and turned out much better than I expected. My trepidation was due to an unusual pizza base ingredient, and to be honest – I didn’t think it would work. I squatted next to the oven watching with surprise as it rose and browned and the final result was amazing.

So what was this strange ingredient? Yoghurt. My pizza base was made of equal amounts self raising flour and natural/greek yoghurt.

You just mix them in a bowl – 1 cup of each will make one pizza base – stir to combine, get your hands in there to bring it together in a ball, and then knead it on a floured surface for around 6 -8 minutes.

Pizza dough

My dough was a bit sticky so I did need to have extra flour on hand to sprinkle over it. Once it was nice and stretchy I floured my rolling pin and started to make the base – this is where I thought it was all going to fall apart. The dough stuck to the board, and the rolling pin and I fretted. Some more flour was added, and some baking paper was put underneath so we could transfer it easily to the hot pizza stone. I started to roll again and amazingly it became this round, even beautiful pizza base to which we added toppings. In future at this stage I would probably cook the base for a few minutes, as the topping was almost overcooked by the time the base was done.


With a tomato base, we added mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, roasted capsicum, prosciutto, pesto and mozzarella cheese. Some of my amazing twitter friends also offered incredible suggestions such as a caramelized onion base, or a sweet potato and chorizo topping, or potato dipped in olive oil/salt/rosemary. These along with feta, pine nuts and baby spinach sound incredible. Now that I know this base works we will certainly be upping the ante on the toppings!

We took it out of the oven, served it up and with apprehension took a bite. It was light, it was fluffy, it was soft, and overall delicious. My only addition might be a bit of salt or herbs to the base.. The added benefit was that afterwards you didn’t have that bloated ‘I’ve just eaten too much pizza’ feeling. It didn’t sit like a rock in your stomach.

To serve alongside I made a rocket salad with pear and fig, which I shaved some parmesan onto, and drizzled with olive oil and rocket.. Viola!



If you would like any other the other recipes let me know – and I would love to hear if you try this dough!

*Credit must go to Pinterest where I found this pizza dough recipe – it is originally from this site.


M xx


Alcohol free April and the Meal Plan

My boyfriend and I have given up alcohol for the month of April, and whilst we’ve said this will be our clean eating month we’re not going overboard – hello, it was just Easter, we can’t let the chocolate go off.

We are however going to implement a meal plan and try and decide what to buy and eat weekly because I find that when we don’t have an idea in mind at 6pm we tend to opt for takeaway (because lets face it, it’s delicious and we often rationalize that it’ll cost less than going to the supermarket). This isn’t the case if you plan your meals with common ingredients in mind. Another reason for this (and the month off booze) is our trip to Fiji next month – we have become the kind of couple that love to unwind and discuss the days events over a glass of wine and whilst it’s certainly enjoyable, the cost (and the empty calories) add up.

Once I have finalized our meal plan I’d love to share it with you – our basic plan at the moment is to include some of the following on a weekly rotation:

  • Soups
  • Lentil dishes (either with meat, or rice to make it a complete protein)
  • Meat/fish dishes
  • Quinoa dishes

(All full of veggies of course)

What else should we add?

When you decide to have meatless dishes you need to make sure that the meal still contains protein – an easy way to do this is to use quinoa or tempeh as they are both complete (contain all 9 essential amino acids). Most other not meat proteins are incomplete – missing one or two of the nine. This can be rectified by combining one type with another – ie:

Lentils are low in methionine and tryptophan, however this is present in whole grain rice, thus the reason these two are often served together.

Grains are low in lysine, however this is present in legumes and beans – beans on toast! (not a favourite of mine, but illustrates the concept :)

Another supercharged way to add protein is with eggs – they are the benchmark all other protein is measured against – nutritionally they are perfect, with everything in the correct ratio, and if anyone tells you they raise your cholesterol give them a quick slap up the side of their head for being ignorant. Please try and buy organic or certified free range from a farm you trust, or the nutritional content may vary.

I am hoping at the end of this month we will have added many new wonderful healthy meals to our repertoire, and feel great!

If anyone has any meal ideas/plans that they use I would love to hear them!