This barley risotto is deeply savoury, but also woodsy tasting and earthy in its complexity of flavours. The rosemary adds just the right amount of piney substance and the mushrooms lend the perfect amount of umami (which is to say, great amounts of umami). You could certainly use a cheese like aged Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Pecorino Romano if you can’t find Mahon for this recipe. If you can find Mahon then try and get your hands on an aged version (it’s often sold as Mahon Authentique in North America). Mahon is a firm cow’s milk cheese from Spain that is a buttery marigold colour; it smells like a cellar and a fresh cut lawn all at the same time. Its flavour is one of intense grassiness and dark earth – I could wax poetic on the subject forever, what I’m trying to tell you is that it’s an absolutely lovely table cheese to have on hand and a nice alternative to Manchego when you’re having company over for Spanish tapas. If I was making this meal for a dinner party I would serve it with a really bright salad full of shaved fennel and oranges, a plate of marinated olives, some pears that your guests can just help themselves to, and a bottle of something big, red, and spicy.
savoury barley risotto with mushrooms and mahon:
Scant cup of bread crumbs, homemade or panko crumbs work best
1 cup of pearl barley
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 large leek, cut into half moons
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
About 1 good sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
2 tsp. lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
About 5 cups of vegetable stock
Thick shavings or gratings of Mahon Authentique cheese
- Begin with a large skillet. Over medium heat, toast the breadcrumbs first (this will happen within seconds, so stir constantly and transfer to a plate as soon as they’ve turned a dark golden brown colour).
- Next, toast the barley and almonds together while stirring frequently (but not constantly). As soon as they begin to turn golden transfer them to a large bowl.
- Heat the oil over medium heat, adding the mushrooms, leek, garlic, and celery. Cook for several minutes until the ingredients begin to soften. Add the rosemary, salt, and pepper and continue cooking for five more minutes.
- Add the barley and almonds back to the pan and stir to coat with the oil and vegetables. Pour in the vegetable stock, soy or tamarin sauce, and lemon juice or vinegar. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring every few minutes, until the stock has been absorbed by the barley. When it looks like it has the consistency of risotto try the barley to make sure it’s cooked, you want it to be soft but chewy.
- To serve the barley risotto ladle it into a shallow bowl and top with a handful of the toasted bread crumbs and a generous amount of shaved Mahon cheese.
I recently added a whole bunch of music to my computer that I a)thought I had lost and b)forgot I even had (out of sight out of mind if stronger than I realize, especially considering I’ve seen The xx twice live and thought both shows were incredible). It was a combination “Oh yeahhhh!” and “Oh yayyy!” moment when I started listening to this album again, like a forgotten treasure I found in the backyard. So here you are, minimalism at its best and sexiest.
The xx – Heart Skipped a Beat