Wild mushroom risotto


Pearl barley is a great replacement for arborio risotto rice. Firstly barley is grown all over the UK, so you'll be contributing to less food miles when you use it. Secondly, it holds its nutty texture so much better than rice, so you don't have to worry about it going stodgy. 

INGREDIENTS (serves 4) 
3 shallots
1 large clove of garlic
1/2 a red chilli
6 large chestnut mushrooms
15 dried wild mushrooms (porcini, shiitake, chanterelle) 
150g fresh shiitake mushrooms
300g pearl barley
Zest of half a lemon
150g grated parmesan cheese
4 wedges of lemon (1 lemon)
Handful of fresh thyme sprigs
2 tsp of balsamic glaze (or 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar) 

First of all you want to make the stock by tearing up the dried mushrooms into smaller bits and popping into a measuring jug. Add 500ml of boiling water. If you leave this for about 20 minutes the flavour will intensify hugely. These dried mushrooms are the secret to any good mushroom risotto. 

Whilst the stock is forming, chop the shallots into fine slices and gently fry (on a medium heat) in a little rapeseed oil. Chop the chilli and crush the garlic and add both to the pan, stirring occasionally. Put the 6 chestnut mushrooms into a food processor with half of the thyme (making sure you pick the thyme off the stalks before it goes in). Add plenty of salt and pepper and blitz for 30 seconds, making sure it doesn't go too smooth. Add this to the hot pan. 

Cook for 10 minutes or so, stirring regularly before adding the raw pearl barley. Stir the barley, like you would risotto rice to make sure it's coated in all the flavour of the pan, then add the mushroom stock 100ml at a time, stirring continuously. Whatever you do, don't waste the now soaked dried mushrooms in the stock - they can go in too! Once you've slowly added the stock and the barley has soaked it all up, add the lemon zest, the fresh whole shiitakes, the balsamic, and the rest of the thyme. Season well with salt and pepper. 

Taste the barley at this point - if it is still quite crunchy then continue to add boiling water and keep on a medium heat until it is nice and soft but still has a good bite. From start to finish the barley should take about 40 minutes to cook. Once the barley is cooked through, add the grated parmesan and stir for another few minutes until it is all melted. Enjoy with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.