I’m a huge risotto fan. To me there’s little more comforting than the starchy, creamy texture of slowly cooked rice and the soothing process of stirring required to achieve just that. I usually just go for Arborio risotto rice, but varied with pearl barley this time. I heard about farro risotto and although pearl barley isn’t exactly the same as farro, the structure is pretty comparable.
Using barley instead of rice really transforms the risotto: it adds some substance and bite, which turned out very nice. The pureed sweet green peas give this barley risotto its creaminess and bright green color, while the lemon adds extra zing. A generous layer of rich Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of good green olive oil finish things off. It’s a lovely satisfying dish, that’s actually pretty light and wholesome at the same time.
I used dried pearl barley that needed pre-soaking and took about 45 minutes to cook, but most barley will be cooked quicker. You don’t need to constantly stir this dish, but make sure to check the consistency now and then to feel when the barley is done. You want the risotto to be creamy and to “flow” on the plate, but still have some texture and bite. Feel free to use farro instead of barley, or even make this risotto with traditional rice. Not a fan of parsley and chives? Use mint or basil instead.
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Barley Risotto with Peas and Parmesan
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, grated
2 tbsp olive oil + extra
3 ½ cup (450 g) frozen green peas (defrosted)
2 tbsp parsley and/or chives, finely chopped
1 ½ cup (300 g) pearl barley
4 cups (1 liter) vegetable stock
handful of Parmesan cheese
½ lemon, zest and juice
- Blanch the peas: bring a pan of water to the boil, add some salt and the peas. Cook 2 minutes, then drain in a colander and cool down with cold water. This will stop the cooking process and make sure the peas remain bright and green.
- In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil. Sweat the onion and garlic for 3 minutes on medium heat, or until translucent and fragrant. In another pan, heat the stock over low heat.
- Meanwhile, puree three quarter of the peas with the parsley in a food processor or stick blender. Add a splash of olive oil and mix into a creamy puree.
- Add the pearl barley to the onion and fry for 2 minutes. Then slowly add the hot stock, about ½ cup at a time. Stir now and then and wait until the stock is absorbed, then add a new splash. Repeat for 30-45 minutes, or until the risotto is creamy and done, but still has some bite. You may not use all the stock, or need extra water instead.
- Mix the pea puree, peas, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice/zest through the risotto. Let the risotto rest another 3 minutes before serving.
- Serve with extra Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.