Barley risotto with porcini mushrooms [Vegetarian]

Jaymi's Notes:
I love a good risotto but I'm not a huge fan of rice, so I enjoy seeing recipes that use other grains. This recipe uses pearl barley, which gives the same texture as a rice risotto but is just a bit healthier. The barley absorbs the flavors of the vegetable broth, onions and mushrooms quite well.

This can easily be a vegan recipe as well -- use olive oil instead of butter (I always do when cooking anyway), and skip the soft cheese or use a vegan cheese substitute. While the cheese adds to the consistency, you really won't notice if it isn't in there.

The leftovers are a great base for a new meal, too. I combined the leftovers with a thick marinara sauce and roasted red peppers, letting the mix simmer for a few minutes to create a tomato-based risotto dish. You can get creative with remaking the risotto for meals later in the week for quick dinners.

More on The Cooking Project.

© Jaymi Heimbuch
Kelly's Recipe:

I headed off to the farmers' market hoping for some asparagus, but not yet, perhaps next week. But what I did find where some wild leeks, otherwise known as ramps. This was exciting because for me, this is the real sign of spring. There have been recent articles about over-harvesting of this wonderful earthy plant. I was talking about it with Seth from Forbes Wild Foods, who is my leek supplier. We were talking about the increase in popularity of wild leeks over the past couple of years. People who are more concerned with making a few bucks than maintaining a healthy amount of plant material are taking more wild leeks than they should. Seth tells me that the foragers who work for Forbes never take more than 5% of a clump of wild leeks. Like fiddleheads, wild leeks give you a real taste of the forest and there is something intensely spring like in the flavour. For the two or three weeks I can get them, I'll be putting them into most of the dishes I cook. I just substitute them for any onions in a recipe. I used 3 of them in place of the onion in the recipe below. You can use the entire plant and not waste anything, but the green part of the plant is a bit delicate and will get slimy if you don't use it quickly enough. If that happens, you can cut the green part off and still use the bulb.

This recipe from Food and Drink is meant to have asparagus in it, but I went ahead and made it without. I really enjoyed this, it was satisfying and filling without being heavy. Not only that, I didn't have to stand over the stove and stir it constantly like you have to with regular risotto. Make sure you use pearl barley. It's not as good for you as other forms of barley because the hull and the bran have been removed, but it cooks much faster. I didn't have any chives, so I used some pea shoots I got at the market for garnish.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

Creamy Barley Risotto with Porcini

1 pkg (14g)dried porcini mushrooms
2 tbsp unsalted butter (use olive oil for a vegan version)
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup dry white wine (be sure it is vegan, if making the vegan version)
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup crumbled fresh soft cheese (skip for vegan version, or use a vegan substitute)
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
salt to taste

© Jaymi Heimbuch

1. In bowl combine porcini mushrooms with 1 cup hot water and set aside for 5 minutes. Then remove mushrooms, squeezing out and reserving soaking liquid. Rinse and drain mushrooms, then chop finely. Strain soaking liquid through a paper towel lined sieve into a medium saucepan. Set aside.

2. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, porcini and pepper. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often, until onion is soft but not browned. Stir in barley until well coated with onion mixture.

3. Add wine and bring to a boil, stirring until wine has been absorbed. Stir in 2 cups stock. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until stock has been absorbed and barley has swollen and is starting to soften.

4. Meanwhile, add remaining stock to mushroom soaking liquid and heat over medium-high heat until steaming. Keep warm over low heat.

5. Add hot stock mixture to barley 1/2 at a time, stirring often and allowing barley to absorb stock before adding more, until most of the stock is used (you may not need all of it. and barley is tender but still a little chewy, about 20 minutes.

6. Stir in the cheese and half of chives. Season with salt and more pepper to taste. Spoon into shallow bowls and sprinkle with remaining chives.

Tags: Cooking | Recipes | The Cooking Project | Vegan | Vegetarian | Weekday Vegetarian

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