Savoury Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Mahon

Bowl of barley risotto with rosemary and Mahon cheese

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

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Barley Risotto Mis En PlaceI 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

Roasted Jalapeno and Sweet Pepper Barley Salad

barley salad

I’ve been going through a hearty salad obsession for the past month or so, I think it’s my own culinary method of chasing the grey and perpetually dripping winter away. That is to say, if my food is bright and fresh tasting then the cold exterior seems less of a a constant looming cloud. Winter is also an excellent time to make salads on a regular basis because it forces you to get creative with your ingredients due to a lack of summer vegetables, or at least ones that taste delicious while out of season. The first time I made a variation of this Roasted Jalapeno and Sweet Pepper Barley Salad I was unconvinced that it would taste as delicious as it does. I’m enamoured with each of the ingredients on their own, and in combination with any of their fellow recipe ingredients, but the barley kept throwing me off. In my mind barley had always paired spectacularly with rich, savoury and earthy flavours in soup or faux risotto form. The barley is actually an ideal vehicle for the other ingredients, light and chewy and extremely simple to prepare. I’m so glad I took a chance with this salad, because it is now easily one of my top 3 favourite salads to make.  The roasted peppers give an intense smoky and spicy sweetness to the salad while the lime juice perks up the overall taste in a way that makes you swear this salad time traveled from someone’s backward barbeque in July. For a heartier salad add diced avocado and thinly sliced roasted portobello mushrooms.

roasted jalapeno and sweet pepper barley salad:

3/4 cup of pearl barley

3 sweet peppers, cut in half vertically

1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and cut in half from tip to tail

1 cup of grape tomatoes, halved or quartered

1 small bunch of cilantro, finely chopped

5 scallions, both white and green parts finely chopped

2 limes, juiced

3 Tbsp. fruity olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a lidded saucepan toast the dry barley over medium-high heat, this should take about 5 minutes stirring frequently (you will be able to smell it beginning to take on a nuttier aroma at this point.) Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil, covering and cooking over reduced heat for 25-35 minutes depending on the particular batch of barley you’re using. Once the barley is cooked take off the heat and stir in 1 Tbsp. olive oil and leave to cool with the lid off.

2. Meanwhile, as the barley is cooking place all of your peppers cut-side down on parchment paper or aluminum foil and roast for 20 minutes or until the skin on the peppers is quite blackened. Once they are roasted take them out of the oven put them all in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes to steam.

3. Remove the charred skins off of all the peppers and chop finely, add the peppers and any juices that accumulated while steaming or chopping to the cooled barley. Stir in the grape tomatoes, scallions and cilantro before topping with the remaining olive oil, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Mix carefully with a spatula and serve cold or at room temperature.

Holopaw is perfect warming all over music for January, each song feels small and intimate and quietly glowing. There’s something about this particular song that I have been in love with since this album debuted, it sounds poetic and safe at the same time – like being held tightly in a reassuring embrace.

Holopaw – Igloo Glass