Pearl Barley Risotto With Roast Fennel And Mushrooms

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Pearl Barley Risotto With Roast Fennel And Mushrooms

Fennel for pearl barley risotto

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This pearl barley risotto recipe evolved from a couple of other recipes.  It’s an amalgamation of this barley risotto with roasted butternut squash and goat’s cheese from Red magazine and a recipe for farro risotto with roasted fennel and mushrooms in the March 2016 issue of Vegetarian Living magazine (my favourite veggie food mag).  I do like the original Red magazine recipe and I’ve made that a few times since my friend Beckie cooked it for us one New Year’s Eve.  Sometimes I switch the goat’s cheese with feta cheese and that works well too. 

Now for a warning:  The barley takes a long time to cook.  You need to allow about 80-90 minutes from when you start adding the liquid.  This has got me thinking that it might be a good idea to do a big batch of the basic pearl barley risotto recipe and freeze what you don’t need immediately in portions.  Then you could defrost the basic risotto any time and add whatever you want to it:  Roasted red onion, butternut squash and cheese like the Red recipe,  roasted celeriac and mushrooms like this recipe, or something else entirely 🙂  What I’m not sure about is how well it freezes and whether the texture would still be good afterwards so I’ll give that a try at some point and report back.

Fennel for pearl barley risotto

You can serve this with grated Italian-style hard cheese to sprinkle or I’ve stirred in a small amount of leftover Camembert when I’ve had some to use up and that was nice but it’s also good without cheese.

It’s not a very photogenic dish and I was working in electric light because of these dark evenings so I’m sorry for the lack of a tempting photograph.  You’ll just have to trust me that it tastes good!

Pearl Barley Risotto With Roast Fennel And Mushrooms

Servings 2


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic finely sliced
  • 130 g pearl barley
  • 125 ml white wine
  • 700 ml vegetable stock
  • 1 bulb of fennel
  • 200 g chestnut mushrooms
  • Black pepper
  • Italian-style hard cheese grated (to serve, optional)


  • Melt 1 tbsp of olive oil and a small knob of butter (equivalent to about 1 tbsp) in a large saucepan.
  • Add the onion and fry gently for 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and barley and cook for another 1-2 minutes stirring well.
  • Add the white wine, bring to the boil and cook until it has gone, stirring occasionally.
  • Now add the vegetable stock a ladleful at a time, stiring it in and cooking until has been absorbed. You don't have to stir it all the time, just keep an eye on it. It needs to cook until the barley is tender which I think can take up to 90 minutes but it depends how you like your barley cooked; I don't like it too chewy.
  • While the barley is cooking heat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.
  • Cut the fennel into chunks and quarter the mushrooms.
  • Put the fennel on a baking tray, toss with 1 tbsp of olive oil and put in the oven for 10 minutes.
  • After the 10 minutes add the mushrooms to the tray and return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes, until the fennel is tender.
  • Once the barley is cooked, add the roasted fennel and mushrooms, give it a good stir and cook for a further couple of minutes to make sure everything is hot.
  • Season with black pepper.
  • Serve with or without a sprinkle of grated Italian-style hard cheese.

A note about salt

You might have noticed that I rarely mention salt in my recipes. I just don’t use it a lot. I’m sure a lot of people would think my cooking is ‘under seasoned’ but I have to watch my blood pressure and I’m used to not using much. There are some things, like rice, where I add a bit at the table but I rarely add it into my cooking.