Serves 4

Prep time 60mins

Barley is a great alternative to the usual risotto rice, yielding that similar comforting creaminess. The base recipe is always the same, but the added ingredients can be anything you have left. I have chosen to opt for mushrooms in this recipe, but the sky’s the limit really or whatever you’re inspired to throw into the pot. Creative combinations from leftover cheeses and chorizos, fresh and dried herbs, last night’s roast or any vegetable on its last leg will all add depth, taste and texture.


1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
½ tsp. cracked black pepper
300g pearl barley
200ml white wine
400g mushrooms, sliced thinly
¼ tsp. dried herbs – oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary all work well
1 litre hot chicken stock
50g parmesan or hard goat’s cheese, grated
Fresh parsley, chopped, to serve


Heat the olive oil and 1 tbsp. of the butter in a large pan and sauté the onion until translucent.
Add in the garlic, season with the salt and pepper, and sauté for a further 2 minutes. Stir in the raw pearl barley and sauté for a minute or so until it glistens. Deglaze the pan with the wine and simmer until it is absorbed. Add in the mushrooms and the herbs, as well as a ladle full of hot stock. Stir occasionally until fully absorbed, then top up with the stock, one ladle full at a time. Repeat the process until the barley is tender, approximately 45 minutes. Once done, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the remaining 1tbsp of butter and the cheese to achieve a creamy consistency.

Serve with an additional sprinkling of cheese, and some freshly chopped parsley.

Inspired combos

Roasted pumpkin/butternut squash and feta cheese
Pancetta and asparagus
Prawn and zucchini
Chicken and mushroom
Peas and mint
Roasted fennel and spinach