When it comes to eating local foods you sometimes realize that substitutions need to be made. Risotto is one dish that we’ve found we can eat in a 100% local version, so long as we replace the rice with a local grain.
Barley lends itself well to replacing rice in risotto for a number of reasons. Although the final taste and texture are fairly different from rice, it does just as good of a job at soaking up the flavours of the dish and holding its form. Barley actually takes more liquid than rice which gives it a bigger opportunity to take on the surrounding flavours of the risotto.
There are a decent number of variations on this theme on the internet, including bacon barley risotto and mushroom barley risotto. This recipe keeps it very simple and vegetarian, with just some onions and carrots for the additions.
We used our own hard cider instead of wine and it worked well, but you can just use whatever is easiest to find or whatever you already have. You can serve the risotto as a main dish or a side. We had it as a main but felt that the whole meal was sort of a meal of sides.
A similar use for barley is in tabbouleh, where it replaces the bulgur wheat. Another use is in a beef stew with lots of veggies. We bought Oak Manor pearl barley (this barley is great for cooking as the husk has been removed) in the 12kg size from Bailey’s and assume this means we’ll be eating barley dishes all winter!
Recipe from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook, available at KPL.
- 4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
- 4 cups water
- 1 tbsp. oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1 ½ cups pearl barley
- 1 cup white wine or hard cider
- 1 tsp. thyme (fresh or dry)
- 2 ounces parmesan or other hard cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
- 1 tbsp. butter
- Salt and pepper
In one pot bring the broth and water to a simmer. In a second larger pot or Dutch oven heat the oil and add the onion and carrot. Cook the vegetables until they are soft.
Add the barley to the veggies and stir until they are beginning to get lightly toasted, a few minutes. Add the wine or cider and cook until it is fully absorbed.
Add the thyme and 3 cups of the warm broth. Over the next hour or so continue adding broth to the risotto and stirring occasionally. Any time the broth has mostly been absorbed add more. As it cooks you’ll need to stir more frequently. I recommend having a book nearby to read for a few minutes at a time between stirs….
When the broth is all cooked into the risotto or the barley is cooked sufficiently turn off the heat. Stir in the parmesan and butter and season with salt and pepper to your liking.Serve with an Ontario white wine or a very local KW Craft Cider!