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.
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.
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.)
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.