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
- 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.
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.
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??