Thursday, November 29, 2007

Drunken Barley Risotto

Pearl barley is a fabulous thing - incredibly chewy and nutty, yet soft enough to release enough starch to make a wonderfully creamy risotto without any cream! Plus it doesn't ask for much stirring - unlike arborio which warrants a lot more special treatment :) Don't get me wrong, I love arborio - in risotto, paella, even an arborio salad ... but sometimes, I don't feel like dealing with the work involved in cooking arborio! And at such times, barley provides the perfect, wonderfully nutritious alternative.

Random barley stats I just learned:

  • Barley is among the oldest crops in the world, and was used in ancient Egypt for making bread and beer - beer is that old?!!
  • Half of the world's barley production is used as animal feed!
  • More than 75% of the remainder is used in beer and whiskey production :)
Ok, so back to our barley risotto - I found a really interesting risotto recipe in The Complete Cookbook - am glad I picked this book up again, had totally forgotten the diversity of recipes it has! Obviously, in keeping with usual behavior, the recipe needed to be morphed :) Especially since the original recipe called for proscuitto! So, in addition to replacing the arborio with barley, I went the all veggie route and used leeks in combination with cauliflower, drunken cauliflower actually! The cauliflower picked up the flavors and colour of the chianti and turned out happily drunk :)

Drunken Barley Risotto with parsley pistou
*hic* :)

Servings: 4


2 cups of pearled barley - rinsed
1 T Earth Balance whipped spread
5-6 baby leeks - chopped
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 cauliflower - separated into medium florettes
2/3 cup of red wine
1 t red pepper flakes
1 t dried thyme

Heat the broth in a pot till it boils and then reduce it to a simmer.

Heat the spread in a saucepan and add the chopped leeks.
Once the leeks are lightly sauteed, add the barley and saute it for about 2-3 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup of broth and stir till fully absorbed (takes a couple of minutes).
Now add the remaining broth along with 3 cups of water to the saucepan.
Stir lightly and cook covered on low for about 40-45 minutes.

In the meantime, heat the oven to 350 F for cooking the cauliflower.
Toss the cauliflower into a baking dish along with the red pepper flakes and thyme.
Add the red wine and mix.
Bake uncovered for 15 minutes and then covered for another 5 minutes.

While waiting for the barley to cook, prepare the parsley pistou:


2 T chopped fresh parsley
3 cloves garlic
2 T olive oil
1 t salt
1 t cayenne pepper

In a pestle, grind all of these ingredients till well-blended.

Once the barley and cauliflower are cooked, toss them together.
Swirl in the pistou just before serving.

You could even top with some marinated bell peppers if you feel like it!

Yes, very! The caulifower+vino was awesome! I was a little leery about it and was wondering if I should've used white wine or sherry, but this turned out great - am definitely using this again in other recipes. And the parsley pistou was the perfect topping - it added a wonderful zing as well as aroma to the risotto.

Damn, I was hoping to send this to Suganya for Vegan Ventures, but just realized that I didn't end up using vegan wine! Yoikes! Balls to the wall here (apparently that odd phrase has no shady connotations :)) , got to make something vegan tomorrow before this awesome event ends!


Nupur said...

How delicious is that?! I have never cooked with pearl barley, and it does sound like a great addition to the pantry.

Happy cook said...

Love the tittle and the risotto.

Kribha said...

I've never tasted this before. Looks like a comforting meal. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

Mandira said...

I haven't cooked with pearl barley yet but your risotto is tempting me to try it. Looks delicious :)

Anita said...

I would have made this in a jiffy since you have already substituted for unfamiliar ingredients...except for earth balance spread?! Please enlighten so that i may take up substitution where you left off :D.

remya said...

i havent tasted this so far...looks delicious....ur tempting me dear...

Ashwini said...

That sounds delicious... must add pearl barley to my grocery list.

Mansi Desai said...

great dish, beautiful presentation, and I love the parsley pistou!!:)

bee said...

barley risotto? freaking brillaint. when i cooked barley and it got the creamy consistency, i did something else with it. you'll see next week. but risotto is a fantastic idea.

my only problem with pearl barley is that it's not whole grain. for that, we need the other type of barley (i forget what it's called)

KayKat said...

Hey Anita,

Earth Balance is a whipped vegan margarine spread - organic and really well-textured. You can find it in most specialty stores like Whole Foods.

Bee, I think you're referring to dehulled barley (where the bran is not removed) - that's probably available in health food stores, I haven't tried anything with that as yet. If you give it a shot, let me know.