Pearl Barley Risotto
Pearl barley risotto is tremendous. I actually think I prefer it to rice risotto and it’s definitely a lot lighter and healthier. Obviously you can adapt this recipe, just leave out the bacon, and ham and replace the chicken stock with veg stock to make it veggie, it’s totally grand with just the butternut squash. You can make it healthier by leaving out the wine and reducing the amount of parmesan.
Ingredients (serves 4 – I like to have some in the freezer, just don’t add the parmesan before you freeze it)
* 300g pearl barley
* 1 medium butternut squash cut into cubes
* 1 – 2 chicken stockpots made up with 500ml water
* Large glass of white wine
* Some dried sage
* 1 onion diced
* A couple of rashers of streaky bacon sliced into small pieces (you can use pre cubed pancetta, it works really well too)
* A good handful of grated parmesan
* 4 slices of parma ham
* Sprinkle the butternut squash with paprika, olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven (180 degrees C) for about half an hour, basically until they are golden brown and soft.
* Fry the onion and bacon pieces in some oil in a heavy bottomed pan (I use a saute pan but if I’m making a big batch just do it in a big pan) until the bacon is crispy and the onion is soft.
* If you have fresh sage add it here, finely chopped and stir through, let it cook for a moment or two.
* Add the glass of white wine and cook until it’s nearly evaporated, stirring a lot.
* Add a ladle of stock, keep stirring and when it’s been absorbed into the pearl barley add another. Keep doing this until the pearl barley is soft enough to eat but still has a bit of bite.
* Put 4 pieces of parma ham on a foil lined baking tray and cook them in the oven until they are solid and crispy.
* Stir through most of the butternut squash, some dried sage and the handful of parmesan. You don’t need to add salt because the parmesan is so salty but some black pepper should do the trick. Give it a taste and feel free to go wild with the cheese.
* Garnish with the rest of the butternut squash and the parma ham crisp.
If you want to make an alternative you can substitute the bacon for chorizo and the white wine for red wine and add some tinned tomatoes. Makes for a really rich winter risotto.