Grains – Part 1

 I’ve been using lots of whole grains in my cooking recently.  This is partly due to continuing efforts to eat a healthy, balanced diet*, but mostly it’s out of plain curiousity.  Barley, oats, millet, wheat, farro, bulgar…  There are so many to try in so many different ways.

Some, I know, will not be for me.  Quinoa, for example, is not something I eat very often.  It tastes fine but those little spirals that form in the centre of the grains when they are fully cooked make me think of ringworm.  Not an appetite inducing thought.  Barley, on the other hand, I love.  It looks fluffy and soft when cooked and it reminds me of eating my Nana’s rib-sticking soups when I was a child.

On several occasions over the last few months I’ve come across the idea of using barley rather than rice in risotto.  As a humongous risotto fan, I was rather excited about trying it out and did so this week. 

Usually, I love to add butter or extra cheese or cream to my risottos and watch them ooze (which is why the dish is generally a weekend treat in my house) but barley risotto struck me as a virtuous thing and so I kept substances-that-ooze to a minimum.  There was no loss of taste or texture.  The starch in the barley along with a comparatively small amount of cheese created a surprisingly creamy risotto. 

Looking forward to eating this again. 🙂

 Barley Risotto with Pesto 

(for 2)

1 tblspn olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

Glug of wine

250g pearl barley

750ml hot vegetable stock

Handful of parmesan

2/3 tblspns basil pesto


Handful of chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

  • As with normal risottos, gently saute the onion and garlic in the oil until soft.
  • Add the barley and stir.  Increase the heat.  Add the wine and cook off the alcohol.
  • Ladle by ladle, add the hot stock to the barley stirring until absorbed.  Continue for approximately 30 mins or until the barley is soft but chewy (it will not become as soft as risotto rice).
  • Stir in the pesto, parmesan and season carefully.
  • Top with chopped nuts.

*  Feel compelled to admit admit I was eating Nutella from the jar whilst writing this post.  :-S


21 thoughts on “Grains – Part 1

  1. I made a barley risotto a little while ago, and, like you, was surprised how good it tasted .. in fact, I think we’ll have another one this week, now that you’ve reminded me … perhaps with pumpkin

    * Did you use your fingers or a spoon 😉

  2. Kalyn – Would love to hear how it goes!

    Joanna – Love pumpkin risotto. Might try it out with barley soon too! And it was a spoon. You get more on them. 🙂

  3. I’ve been meaning to try barley risotto – I haven’t found the proper barley yet. All I’ve found is a quick cooking kind – don’t think that would have the right texture, although it’s fine to toss into soups! I’ve always been a big barley fan!

  4. It didn’t…let me begin again.

    Barley risotto – mmm…great way to use a nutritionally powerful grain. There’s an Aust. cooking show on the telly called The Cook and the Chef – – and a couple of weeks ago Maggie (the ‘cook’) made a barley risotto that left Simon (the ‘chef’) speechless. Yours looks even better.

    Looking forward to part 2. I’m going to get thinking about a way to make you love quinoa – I love a challenge.

  5. Katie – I’ve never heard of the quick cooking kind. The only barley available here is pearl barley. Think they “pearl” part means it has been polished. To make it easier to cook perhaps?

    Lucy – WordPress tends to banish all comments with links to the spam bin until I rescue them.
    Thank you for the complement and I am looking forward to hearing what you come up with on the quinoa front!
    I hadn’t tasted Nutella since I was a teenager until last weekend. A friend bought it for the Durness trip and left it at my house. In the past two days I have eaten the entire jar. Sooooooooo good.

  6. Wow Wendy, this looks like comfort food on a cool damp night! I have been attempting to cook more whole grains also. Went to the market and stocked up, but so far have only worked with wheat berries. Thank you for the inspiration to head back into the whole grains! I will try yours first:)

  7. This is a great idea for the damper, cooler fall. You’ve sparked my imagination and now I’m thinking of a dozen ways to adapt this to my kitchen. Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Anh – You’re welcome!

    Deb – I just tried wheatberries last night. Aren’t they great?

    Christina – Let me know how it goes! I decided to go with pesto as it’s a comfort food of mine. Looking forward to seeing what you do.

  9. Wendy, I am going to have to give the barley a try. I have made a rissoto using farrow and it was really lovely. The farrow has a nutty bite to it. Sitting here having some Tom Yummish Soup for lunch. I just love your recipe for it. Put chicken in it this time rather than Parwns. Thanks for the lovely recipes!!!

  10. Pat – I haven’t tried farro yet. Will have to do so soon. Glad you’re enjoying the tom yum so much! 🙂

    Patricia – I’m on a huge pesto kick at the moment too. Must be an epidemic!

    Gloria – I understood you perfectly! 🙂

  11. Your barley risotto looks like just the thing for a chilly day. I’ve also been trying to branch out and cook with different kinds of grains. I made farro for the first time the other day and it was delicious. It reminded me a lot of barley. I’ll bet it would be great in your recipe. I think I’ll try it with the rest of it.

    I bought a bag of amaranth too. I’ve no clue what to do with it, but it looks very pretty!

  12. Wendy – I want to cook with grains more often but don’t. Part of it is because I have moved home this year so don’t do most of the cooking. It’s only for this year as I work on my thesis, though. I do, however, have a great fondness for bulgur. Claudia Roden’s “(New) Book of Middle Eastern Food” has incredible recipes for many applications of bulgur. I have posted a recipe on my blog about one recipe from this book, if you’re interested:
    Love your barley risotto…warms the heart and soul. Must have been lovely on a day of snowfall.

  13. StickyGooeyCreamyChewy – Farro and amaranth are two grains I haven’t tried at all. Vaguely remember seeing a biscuit/cookie recipe for amaranth in the Super Natural Cooking book. Good luck!

    Shaun – Very impressed you are able to let someone take over most of the cooking. I’m such a kitchen bully. Will definitely check out that recipe. Thanks. 🙂

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