Friday, 17 April 2009


After brunch this weekend, the kitchendancing cave had some leftover champagne.  By the way, if you want to keep champagne fizzy, store it in the fridge with a fork in it thusly. Maybe it works without the fork, but I like champagne too much to risk finding out. Since  I looooves me some boozy cooking, I decided to make something decadent yet decidedly lowbrow with it: Barley "risotto". People often try to do too much to risotto, and also tend to get dogmatic and snobby about it. If you have good mushrooms and good wine and decent technique, it's best not to add too much in the way of other flavours, and if you do that, it's hard to go wrong. Others may differ, but I find that the trick to a really good mushroom rissotto (other than quality ingredients) is to do the mushrooms and the rice (or in this case barley) separately, and to make sure you don't over-spice. I also like to add the barley or rice to the mushroom pan instead of vice versa, so as not to lose all the good stuff kinda stuck to the bottom of the mushroom pan.  Also, rissotto is just a wet pilaf, or savory rice pudding, depending how you look at it. Have fun. Making perfect rissotto takes a bit of practice, but it's not hard, and if you're a beginner, barley is much more forgiving than rice for this dish, though you could do this entire recipe with rice as well. Personally, I love the way barley goes with mushrooms. It's all very earthy and musky and kinda sexy. 

Barley-mushroom-champagne risotto

Soak in enough water to cover:

15g or 1/2c dried porcini (or other) mushrooms

4 dried shiitake mushrooms, chopped and stemmed

Basically, you want a good cup of dried mushrooms here. Use what you have. That's what I had. Nyah.


Fill your kettle with water and turn it on. While the kettle's going, dry-roast 1.5 cups of barley in a big pan on low heat. When it gets light brown, douse with all the champagne you want, reserving a few tbs of the champagne for the next step (though you can use white wine, vermouth, or even vodka here). When the champagne is absorbed, add hot water to cover, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed. You'll eventually be adding the mushroom soaking water, so take it easy at this point with the water-adding, okay? This should be cooking on low heat, just barely simmering. I used about 1.5 cups of champagne. Yes. I'm that decadent. If you're just using a splash of wine, sub hot veg or mushroom broth for the hot water, but use one without strong flavours (like celery) that might overwhelm your lovely little mushrooms. You don't have to stir constantly. That's some kind of myth perpetuated by people who want to intimidate you into thinking that making rissotto is difficult. *Feh*, I say to these people. The secret is out: this is easy. 

While the barley is cooking, chop a leek and (in a separate large pan from the barley) saute it in some more of that champagne. Use green onions if you don't have leeks. When the leek is translucent, add two cloves of chopped garlic. Then throw in the soaked mushrooms, and dump the soaking water into the barley. Turn the heat dow waaaaaaay low and cover the mushroom leek goodness. It should be wet enough to not stick to the pan, but not simmering in liquid as such. This should cook for at least 15 mins. You want to give the leek time to start getting kinda sweet. 

Your kitchen should now smell like I imagine heaven does. 

When everything is done, mix the barley into the mushrooms and adjust the liquid. If it's too soupy, let it simmer a bit (unlike a rice rissotto, it's near-impossible to overcook this one by letting it go a few extra minutes) and if it's too dry, add water or broth. Then add salt, pepper and  if you want, stir in a tablespoon or so of white miso at the end. Add a whack of fresh chopped parsley. Drizzle with some truffle oil if you have it. 


Penny said...

I love barley, but never thought of using it in a risotto... I'll be trying this out!
I enjoy your blog a lot and it's on my blog roll. Remember you missed the Compassionate Living Fair and said we could have come for dinner after, if you'd remembered about it? (I had a Scottish Vegans baking stall, which I mentioned on Vegan Freaks.) After following your blog and seeing all the great stuff you make, I'm even more disappointed that it didn't happen!

sinead said...

Hi Penny! I'm glad you enjoy the blog, and that it's on your blogroll. Yays! And the offer for dinner still stands if you ever find yourself in town.

Mihl said...

I'm with you. Barley is perfect for risotto! It has such a great flavour.

M of the Maritimes said...

I've never had anything resembling success the few times I've tried to make risotto. I do *love* barley, though, and think that this may inspire me to give it another try. It sounds quite delicious.

Tsila from VFF