Mushroom & Barely Risotto


ome recipes make you excited. You end up dishing up then talking about them the entire way through the meal. With each mouthful another comment about your success or enjoyment until you realise you’re lost in an enthusiastic nodding and smiling conversation with your company across the table. This happens a lot to me, and I can only think my fiancee is happy to just enjoy his dinner and take one for the team by humouring me. Rather like I do when watching United play at the weekend I guess…

This recipe though was one of those happy soothing moments where we dined in delight, comfort and satiety. So pleasingly earthy, umami and meaty, this barley mushroom ‘risotto’ really treated our Monday evening normailty. Its a “YUM” dinner.

Free to use your favourite assortment of mushrooms here but do not skimp on the dried mushrooms. That soaking liquid is like nectar and I always have to stick my nose in when opening a fresh pot for that joyful aroma! Mushroom risotto is one of my favourites but I really think its elevated 3 fold by using barley. The earthiness comes through so pleasingly and the texture and bite make for such a delicious dinner.

Serves 2-3

  • 180g pearl barley
  • 300g (approx) chestnut mushrooms
  • 120g (approx) shiitake mushrooms
  • 15-20g wild dried mushrooms (I use these)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked, finely chopped
  • 1 small glass white wine
  • Hot Stock – I used a chicken stock but vegetable if you want to keep this vege
  • 25g butter
  • Handful chopped parsley & chives
  • Parmesan
  • Handful toasted pine nuts (to serve)
  • Hens/Quails eggs (Optional – to serve)
  1. Soak your dried mushrooms in about 200ml boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain but keep that mushroom stock but discard the last bit of liquid as it’ll be grainy. Set mushrooms and mushroom stock aside.
  2. Heat half the butter and a splash of olive oil in a large sauce pan on a medium heat. Add the finely chopped shallot, celery and sweat for about 5-10 minutes until soft and translucent. Don’t colour. Season well as its cooking.
  3. Add one crushed garlic clove and the rosemary and cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Add the barley and stir everything so you coat the barely in fats.
  5. Turn up the heat and add the white wine and simmer until this reduced.
  6. Add your mushroom stock and stir.
  7. Now add the hot stock in generous spoonfuls bit by bit as it cooks. Keep adding stock to the barley keeping it on a good strong simmer. The barley will take about 35-40 minutes to cook through but you still want it with a bit of bite. You’ll need around 800ml stock in total but use your eye to see when you need to add more but don’t add too much as its gets to the end of cooking as your want it to be reducing down.
  8. As the barley is cooking, set a frying pan on a medium high heat and add the rest of the butter and a splash of olive oil. Chop your mushrooms roughly (not too thin) or rip them if delicate and add to the pan. Season well with salt. Cook for about 10 minutes. You want to reduced them down. A lot of liquid will leak out so keep the pan hot to reduced that off and get them golden. Once ready, add the second crushed garlic clove and cook for a few more minutes before removing from the heat and setting aside.
  9. Once the barley is ready, check your liquid. You still want some give in it, do not let it dry out, it’ll thicken with the mushrooms and cheese. Check your seasoning here and add salt and pepper as needed (lots of pepper works wonders here).
  10. Add the dried soaked mushrooms and fried mushrooms and stir well. Add the chopped parsley and chives and stir.
  11. Finally grate in a really generous handful of parmesan – I like to keep this optional as to how much! Clamp your lid on, remove from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes.
  12. If frying or poaching eggs to go on top, do that now.
  13. When ready to serve, remove the lid and stir the now molten cheese into the dish. If it’s a little thick, add a splash of water to loosen, you don’t want it cloggy.
  14. Spoon into bowls, top with grated parmesan, scatter of pine nuts, any reserved herbs and finely your eggs if using!

Texture – texture of any risotto should warrant a bowl or a large plate. It needs to ooze. If you can label your risotto onto a plate and it sits high and still like a mound of pasta, add more hot water and stir well.