Barley Risotto with Mushrooms & Spinach

Growing up I always identified barley with sickness. You have barley soup when you are sick, that is the way I have always known the grain until I came across Dorie's Vegetable Barley Soup with taste of  Little India. It was a revelation. Who knew root vegetables, garam masala and barley could team up so well to create such a hearty bowl of soup !  So I realized that barley could be interesting... even tasty provided the recipe is good.. But barley risotto ??? That seemed like a completely different story. I wasn't too sure how it would be until I sampled some on Sunday. And frankly speaking was taken by surprise at how good it turned out ! 

Okay. Barley is one of the healthiest grains in the world... but that is not why I thought of cooking it risotto-style. It was the photograph of  Toasted Barley Risotto with Spinach and Herb puree in the April Issue of  Bon Appetit that attarcted me... and the fact that "Barley Risotto" sounded weird and healthful at the same time... I spotted the recipe while flipping through the latest magazines and soon enough was on my feet cooking my version of barley risotto with mushrooms and spinach....

Husband and I had both loved Audrey's Mushroom risotto... So I decided to cook the barley along those lines... incorporating in some spinach-cilantro puree in it for the color. The was a lovely creamy risotto bursting with flavors and a bit of nuttiness rendered by barley. I hadn't toasted the barley too long so the contrasting red of the grain that I had attracted me at the first place was missing.. but the risotto as a whole was lovely... the perfect dinner for a chilly spring evening...

Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Spinach

Recipe by Tanusree Khandai
Prep time: 15 minutes                                                                                     Cook time: 50-55 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes                                                                         Serves : 3

  • ½ cup pearl barley
  • 4 cups chicken broth or 4 cups of water plus 2½ chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • garlic salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 ½ cup mushrooms(I used baby portabella)
  • 1 cup spinach
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • 2 tbsps butter
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese + more for garnish
  • 1 tbsp dried chives
Cooking Directions
  1. Center the rack and preheat oven to 350 °F.
  2. Toast barley on a reamed baking sheet for 10 minutes, then keep aside.
  3. Bring the chicken broth or 4 cups of water plus 2½ chicken bouillon cubes to a boil. Switch off the heat and keep aside.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large enough container, add the chopped onions, garlic salt and pepper cook till the onions soften, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the toasted barley, thyme and bay leaf and mix so that the grains are well coated with the oil, onion and herbs.
  6. Add 1 cup of the hot broth to the barley, bring it to a boil, then reducing the heat simmer till most of the liquid evaporates.
  7. Stir in the wine and allow to sit for a few minutes until most of it evaporates.
  8. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth, stir well and wait until most of it has evaporated. Repeat the process until you reach the last but one cup of broth.
  9. After adding the third cup of broth to the barley, simmer the spinach and cilantro in the remaining one cup of broth for a minute or so. Switch off the heat and puree the cooked greens.
  10. Once most of the liquid from the barley has evaporated, gently stir in the pureed greens, sliced mushrooms, grated Parmesan, butter and dried chives.
  11. Cooking over medium heat, allow the butter and cheese to melt and the broth to evaporate.
  12. Taste and season with garlic salt if required. Stir well and cook until most of the liquid has left and the barley looks creamy.
  13. Switching off the heat, allow the "risotto" to sit for 5-10 minutes. Then serve into bowls with a sprinkle of  grated cheese.
Was busy the past few days celebrating Bengali New Year, husband's birthday, his new job appointment and planning our move to India in August. So life lately has been quite eventful. 

Hope you've been keeping well and keeping busy. Wishing you all Subho Noborsho !! 
Take care...


  1. I've never had barley risotto before, but I've heard of doing this and it sounds so tasty and more than a little intriguing. I imagine the texture is delicious and even more hearty than when using rice...

  2. This sounds so tasty - I had never thought of cooking barley this way.

  3. Delicious barely risotto with mushroom and spinach lovely healthy and colorful.


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