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

Mushroom and Taleggio Puff Pastry Tart

tray of mushroom and taleggio puff pastry on an orange back drop

Mushrooms and Taleggio go together like, well, just about any culinary copacetic pairing you can think of. The woodsiness of the cremini mushrooms in this recipe are a natural foil for the fruity notes of the cheese and the rind adds a subtle earthy dimension that just makes the entire final product an entirely worthwhile ordeal. I think that the fresh parsley and basil are important to the recipe, they add a bright lift to some of the heavier tasting ingredients and a delightful contrast in texture. I made this on Sunday with the intention of having leftovers, but my friend Lela and I ate the entire thing and washed it down with a beautiful berry ripe Barbera and limoncello cocktails for dessert. This recipe is perfect cut up into small squares as an addition to brunch and also as an easy supper with a lemon and olive oil dressed salad.

mushroom and taleggio puff pastry tart:

1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly

3 cloves of garlic, minced

5 scallions, green and white parts roughly chopped

Generous glug of olive oil

Kosher or sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste

150-200 g Taleggio, torn into small pieces (rind included)

Lots of fresh basil and parsley, snipped with scissors into a tangle of green

I sheet of pre-rolled puff pastry

1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Sauté the cremini mushrooms, garlic, and scallions in the olive oil over medium-high heat until the mushrooms are soft and starting to brown. Wait until the last minute of cooking before adding the salt and pepper to prevent the mushrooms from releasing too much liquid. Place the cooked mushroom mixture in a sieve and allow to drain for at least a half hour.

3. Prepare the puff pastry by laying it on a parchment lined baking sheet and pricking holes in the dough with a fork, coming up to about an inch away from the perimeter of the pastry (this ensures that the border of the puff pastry will rise higher than the centre, where the mushrooms will go). Par-bake for 10 minutes and remove from the oven. Using a pastry brush, wash the puff pastry with egg.

4. Evenly spread the mushroom mixture over the puff pastry and top with the pieces of Taleggio. Bake for another 15-20 minutes before removing. Cover the mushroom tart with a lavish amount of fresh green herbs and more cracked pepper.

Sometimes you just need to listen to depressing music by The Bee Gees when you’re feeling sad.

The Bee Gees – Nights on Broadway

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

Hungarian mushroom soup is easily, without any contest whatsoever, my absolute all-time favourite soup to eat once the evenings begin to cool in September (continuing throughout the fall and winter.) This classic recipe is taken from The Moosewood Cookbook, both my mom and dad made this soup on weekends when I was growing up and for some reason it always felt special when we ate Hungarian mushroom soup – as if the preparation and consumption of this particular dish was singular in its undeniable ability to simultaneously soothe and nourish. Unfortunately, I live with a inconvertible mushroom hater so this soup is relegated to nights when I’ll be eating dinner alone which is  both good and bad in that I can consume as much as I’d like but usually end up eating the entire pot over the course of a few hours. This recipe boasts a savoury final product that is rich, creamy, and entirely alive with the flavours of lemon, sweet Hungarian paprika, and dill weed. I prefer to use a mixture of mushroom varieties; for this particular example I have used cremini and white button mushrooms, the woodsiness of the cremini mushrooms adds a sort of gamy depth to the soup that accents but does not overwhelm. I don’t ever eat anything with this soup as it stands alone as a perfect supper in my mind, some good rye bread with butter would presumably make an excellent accompaniment.

hungarian mushroom soup:

2 cups of thinly sliced cremini mushrooms

2 cups of thinly sliced white button mushrooms

1 Tbsp. canola oil

2 cups of onions, cut in half and sliced into half-moons

2 Tbsp. salted butter

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 cup of milk

2 tsp. dried dill weed

1 Tbsp. sweet Hungarian paprika

1 Tbsp.  soy sauce

1 tsp. salt

2 cups of stock

The juice of  1 whole lemon

1 small bunch of parsley, roughly chopped

1/2 cup of sour cream (full fat)

1. Sauté the onions in the canola oil over medium-high heat in a lidded skillet, salting lightly to ensure that they sweat evenly. Add the mushrooms, 1 tsp. of the dill, 1/2 cup of water, soy sauce and paprika. Toss to combine and cover, stirring occasionally and cooking for 15 minutes. 

2.  In a large soup pot melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk continuously for 2 or 3 minutes (this mixture can very easily stick and burn so make sure you keep a close eye on it as you are whisking.)

3. Add the milk to the roux and heat for about 10 minutes or until the milk starts to thicken. Again, stirring frequently is highly advised. Add the mushrooms and leftover stock. Cover the soup pot with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes, make sure that soup doesn’t boil over.

4. At this point you can just let it sit if you aren’t planning on serving it right away. When you do end up serving it reheat the soup gently and add the sour cream, lemon juice, dill, salt, and pepper. Before bringing to the table sprinkle the bowls liberally with chopped parsley.

I just got back from a visit to London, Ontario where I was attending formal family functions and staying with my mom and sister for two weeks. My sister and I have a lot of overlap in our musical preferences I look forward to finding out what new and interesting music she’s discovered since I left home a year ago. One album that was played a lot was Big Spider’s Back newest album Memory Man. While I enjoy Big Spider’s Back debut EP Warped it has never been something I have listened to on repeat over several days; Memory Man however, has accompanied me on a plane trip, long walks, runs, while cleaning, and while cooking Hungarian mushroom soup.

Big Spider’s Back – Megazone