Roasted mushroom barley risotto

roasted mushroom barley risotto, vegetarian recipe

In about seven hours I’ll be heading to the train station to pick up a friend I haven’t seen in over five years. FIVE YEARS! Laura and I lived in the same international student house during our exchange in Groningen – which is also how we met the lovely Marjolein, who will be joining us bright and early tomorrow morning. EXCITEMENT!!!!!

In preparation I’ve got a grocery list in my phone that’s very reminiscent of our exchange – i.e. it’s packed full of weird Dutch novelty food that, as newbies to the country, we couldn’t get enough of. Chocolate sprinkles on your bread, anyone? Or perhaps ‘vla flip’ – a mix of different flavours of what is sort of like North American pudding but not really, which no one has ever satisfactorily explained? Stroopwafels? Salty salmiak lollypops for our enemies? It’s all on there! (Ok except for the salmiak lollypops because they are foul and we have no enemies… that we know of…)

Given that I’ll be on a serious sugar high, I also plan to spend the entire weekend shouting ‘lekker ding’ (loosely translated: ‘hot stuff’) at anyone and everyone who crosses my path. Why, you ask? For old times’ sake. On my very first day of exchange in Groningen, I was taught this phrase – some of my very first Dutch words – and told that it was a super common and hip way of expressing your interest in someone. ‘All the cool Dutch people do this!’ they said. ‘It’s totally normal and not at all weird!’ they said.

It seemed plausible enough – the Dutch are after all known for being very progressive and direct. Fortunately I’ve never been so forward as to brazenly walk up to a random fellow in the street and strike up a conversation, let alone use any form of ‘hot stuff’ as my opening line (much to my regret)… because it turns out that this was a cruel and elaborate joke and that ‘lekker ding’ isn’t used nearly as often as I was led to believe – and almost never un-ironically. Which is a darn shame if you ask me.

To this day I’m very suspicious of anyone (including Pieter!) who tries to teach me Dutch slang…

But anyway – this roasted mushroom barley risotto! Clearly my honeymoon with the oven is still going strong.

roasted mushroom barley risotto, vegetarian recipe

I’ve called this a risotto, but given that it’s made with barley it obviously isn’t as creamy as regular risotto. On the other hand, it’s a lot less labour-intensive. Much like my one-pan farro alla puttanesca, you basically just chuck everything (except the mushrooms) into a pan and let it do its thing – and it comes out delicious and indulgent and comforting.

Meanwhile, you roast your mushrooms in the oven until they get deliciously fragrant and golden, and your entire place smells just heavenly. Their flavour comes out in full force when they’re roasted, so you get a serious hit of savoury, umami goodness. You could even go wild and add some truffle oil to the mushrooms as soon as they come out of the oven – I’ve done it with this risotto and it’s delicious! – but I thought I’d keep this recipe as simple, inexpensive, and fresh as possible.

roasted mushroom barley risotto, vegetarian recipe

roasted mushroom barley risotto, vegetarian recipe

The risotto takes about 45-50 minutes to cook, but because it requires minimal stirring you can do whatever you please while you wait. Not that I don’t love to labour over my stove on occasion (seriously, I do!), but sometimes there just isn’t the time. Another lovely bonus: this stuff re-heats just fine the next day and doesn’t acquire that familiar starchy, gluggy texture that regular risotto does.

Now I’d better get back to work before Laura gets here! Happy Halloween weekend everyone! (And if you were wondering, I still haven’t made anything from my Halloween board… but surely it’s only a matter of time.)

Roasted mushroom barley risotto

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 2 portions

Roasted mushroom barley risotto

Ingredients

500 g (about 3 cups) assorted mushrooms, sliced about 1 cm thick
1 large onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1.5 cups/275 g pearl barley
1.25 L (5 cups) simmering vegetable broth
1/3 cup white wine or 1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tbsp dry thyme)
big handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
salt, to taste
parmesan, for serving

Instructions

1. Start by preheating your oven to 225c/435f. In a medium-sized bowl, toss the sliced mushrooms with about 1 tbsp of olive oil and a big pinch of salt. Lay evenly on a baking sheet (lined with baking paper if possible!) and roast in the oven until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. You can flip them halfway if you want, but I don't find this step necessary.
2. Once the mushrooms are in the oven, heat up the remaining oil in a pan (big enough to accommodate all of the broth) over medium heat. Sauté the onion with a pinch of salt until translucent - about 5-7 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and sauté another minute.
4. Add the barley and half the thyme. Let toast for a minute or so.
5. Then add the wine or lemon juice. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
6. Add about 4 cups (1 L) of the vegetable broth, bring to a simmer, and let cook about 20-25minutes, or until most of the broth has evaporated. Stir on occasion to prevent the barley from sticking to the pan.
7. At this point, try the barley. If it's still got too much bite for you, start adding the remaining broth in about 1/4 cup (65ish ml) increments, allowing the barley to absorb it before adding any extra. If it's soft enough for you, allow whatever broth is left to be almost completely absorbed until you're left with a creamy, starchy consistency.
8. Once the barley has absorbed almost all of the liquid and is al dente, toss in the roasted mushrooms, the rest of the thyme and the chopped parsley. Serve with parmesan and enjoy!

Notes

I've noticed that different brands of barley take different cooking times and different amounts of liquid, which is why I recommend starting with 1L and then adjusting as needed.

If your mushrooms start to look very dehydrated in the oven before they get brown, you can always toss them in a few drops of extra oil.

And on that note, if you don't have baking paper, use more oil than I've indicated... unless you want to find yourself cursing while trying to scrape mushrooms from a sheet pan.

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