This is not, not a risotto? Right?
Even typing that I can feel the weight of disapproval from my Italian cooking mentor, Antonella, who would absolutely tell me this is not a risotto, but I can’t help myself and I’m sure she’d understand.
There’s a time and a place for a proper, stove side stirring risotto (in fact, I have one in my second ebook Kitchen Instinct which you can download for free here) however there are also times when I want to do just a tiny bit of frying and then let the oven do the rest. Is that a crime?
This is the perfect meal to make midweek or, when you want to be really productive and progressive, make ahead of time and reheat on the hob as needed, although you may need a little splash more liquid just to separate the grains.
I can’t stop looking at this when it’s made. There’s something invitingly golden and summery about it, thanks to a whopping spoonful of mustard, but you lose the throat tingling burn as it cooks, leaving an almost honeyed, salty depth.
I opted for mushrooms in this recipe because I wanted my cooking time to be minimal, however you could absolutely swap for some cut up chicken thighs and thin strips of salty bacon in their stead, but cooking for slightly longer than the recipe suggests, on the hob, before adding in the pearl barley.
I’ve also put on 2 1/2 stone since my last holiday – and enjoyed every lb of it, if I’m honest – however I am trying to be good so this recipe does practice a little uncharacteristic self restraint. If you are under no such restrictions, then I thoroughly recommend adding a small streak of double cream to the dish at the end and of course, lots of grated Parmesan cheese.
Until I shift 2 1/2 stone, I can’t, so please – do it for me.
Serves 2 (or 1 with leftovers)
1 tablespoon olive
1 onion – peeled and chopped as finely as you can be bothered
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon English mustard
1 vegetable stock cube
200g pearl barley
250ml boiling water from the kettle
A handful of freshly chopped parsley
- Preheat the oven to 180C and boil a kettle full of water.
- In a shallow, medium sized pan (that comes with a lid) with high sides, warm the olive oil and once warm, add the onion with a little salt.
- Cook the onion for roughly 5 minutes, just until you take the raw edge off.
- On a chopping board, finely slice the mushrooms and finely grate the garlic over them with a fine grater. Sprinkle the thyme leaves on top of this and then add to the pan along with a further small pinch of salt and some black pepper. Cook for another 5 – 6 minutes, just until the mushrooms have softened and are releasing some of their juices into the pan.
- Add the mustard and stock cube to the pan and stir through the mushrooms and onions until evenly dispersed.
- Tip in the pearl barley and stir around the pan so that all the grains are coated in the mustardy mushroom mix. Only for about 3 – 4 minutes or so, just to get them fully coated.
- Measure out the boiling water in a jug and pour it all in, stirring through the pan.
- Bring the pan to a bubble, clamp on the lid and put in the oven for 40 minutes, just peeking halfway through to see if you need to add a splash more hot water to the grains.
- Once the time is up, remove from the oven, adorn with some fresh chopped parsley and serve.