At first I wanted to call this risnotto – as in, it’s not risotto. Then I realised that had the word snot in it and that put me off. I think the correct word might be orzotto? Orzo means barley, but unfortunately it’s also the name of a kind of pasta, so that could be confusing. Granotto might also work, though I’m not sure if grano means grain, wheat, or both. Regardless of what you’d like to call it, all credit for this idea must go to Tara at Sugar, Spice and Bacon – hit the link for the original recipe, which is for a barley risotto with butternut squash and spinach.
Just recently, I was sitting in my flat around dinner time, and thinking to myself what a shame it was that I’d bought a load of fresh veg to eat and somehow didn’t feel like eating any of it. I couldn’t work up much of an appetite and was considering heating up a tin of soup, with a dessert of guilt because there was real food in the house and I wasn’t doing anything with it. This food included the loveliest looking bunch of asparagus, that I’d felt compelled to buy but tragically had found no such compulsion to cook. I could almost hear it crying from the fridge, asking why I had forsaken it. Still, that motivation was missing – I’m sure it happens to everyone.
Just at this moment, an email came in from, Sugar, Spice and Bacon – a new post was up. I went to take a look and found the most wonderful looking barley risotto. More than that, it was a baked barley risotto, with minimal standing and prep time and maximum sitting around smelling delicious food time. It really motivated me to get up and cook – that beautiful asparagus would go really well with the box of closed cup mushrooms that were also sitting sadly in the fridge. Two vegetables with one stone! I hopped up from the sofa and went to the fridge to get started. I didn’t let the fact that I was missing a couple of seemingly essential ingredients put me off, I figured I could substitute something or other as I went along…
Mushroom and Asparagus Barley Risotto for two:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 spring onions, white parts only, cut into thin rings
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- small bunch lemon thyme, leaves removed and chopped
- 1/4 cup rice wine (or sherry or white wine)
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup pearl barley
- 2 cups boiling water
- 2 chicken stock cubes
- 8 asparagus spears, sliced into inch-long chunks
- 200g mushrooms, quartered
- handful parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan (or as much as you like)
- a poached egg (optional)
The first substitution was spring onions for normal onion. Can you believe I didn’t have any onions in the fridge? I took it for granted that I did, and I was pretty surprised only to find some ratty looking spring onions that had seen far better days. I thought they would do if I took the rattiest bits out. The second was the rice wine – I was far less surprised that I didn’t have any wine, I’m not really a wine drinkin kinda gal. I did have shaoxing rice wine though, so I used that along with some lemon juice.
- Heat the oven to 200C
- Heat your oil in a large dutch oven. Add onions and garlic and cook over a medium heat for a few minutes, then add the thyme.
- Add the wine and lemon juice, and cook until well reduced. You’ll be able to leave a trail through the ingredients with your spoon, as in the second photo, but nothing will be burned.
- Add barley and stir to coat, then add chicken stock and water. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to the oven for 30 minutes.
- After the half hour is up, remove from the oven and add asparagus and mushrooms. You can add a little water if the barley looks like burning, but remember that the veg will release its own liquid. Stir and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, if you’re having a poached egg, prepare a pan of almost boiling water and keep it at that temperature.
- Remove the lid from the risotto and stir. If the veg has released a lot of liquid, put it back in the oven with the lid off. If it looks OK, put it back in with the lid on. Poach your egg now.
- One minute before the egg will be ready, remove the risotto from the oven and stir in the cheese and parsley, reserving a little of each for garnish. Put on a warm plate.
- Put the egg on top.
- Eat, possibly with some toast if, like me, a runny egg seems very lonely without its best friend, toast.
This not-sotto (slightly better) really hit the spot, and it smelled *very* fancy as it was cooking. Cooking with wine always makes me feel fancy. The barley has a lot of nutty flavour of its own, much like brown rice but more substantial, and it’s very filling. Try it with your favourite veg – it’s so easy to make that there’s really no excuse not to.