For me, pearly barley really is a cupboard staple. It sits in the “ancient grain” family and is extremely versatile. Use it in soups and salads to add texture and flavour or have a go making a risotto with it.
It does have a nutritional advantage over risotto rice. I did a quick comparison on the main nutrition information using Tesco’s products (below). Per 100g, you can see that pearl barley is 70% less calorific than Arborio rice and contains 4.5 X more fibre. Something we all need to be eating more of. It’s also a good source of iron, magnesium and potassium. If that wasn’t enough convincing…pearl barley is much cheaper, 55p for a 500g bag vs £1.25 for a 500g bag of Arborio rice.
If you’re looking for a lighter version of a risotto and fancy a change, I urge you to try my pearl barley risotto recipe. This one is Butternut Squash, but once you have the foundation you can pretty much make any variation you want. I also have the recipe for a beetroot version.
Butternut Squash Risotto – Serves 3
- Pearl Barley (80g dry weight per person)
- 1 large onion (peeled and diced)
- 2 garlic cloves (peeled and sliced)
- Butternut Squash (1 medium size)
- 1 litre hot stock (Veg or chicken)
- White wine vinegar (2 tablespoons)
- Olive oil
- Herbs (sage or origano)
- Frozen peas
- Fresh rocket
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 ° C. De-seed and cut the butternut squash up into large wedges. Don’t bother peeling. Place on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and add the herbs, season and roast in the oven for 40 mins or so. Get your stock heated.
- Meanwhile, in a large, heavy bottom pan, heat your oil and add the onion and garlic. Fry off until they soften, should take 3-5 mins. Then add in the pearl barley and coat the grains with the oil. Allow to cook for 5 mins.
- Add the white wine vinegar and allow the grains to absorb the liquid before adding the hot stock a ladle full at a time. Constantly stir the grains and allow for the liquid to absorb before adding the next ladle of stock. Keep going until all the stock is gone and the grains have swelled and softened.
- Once the roasted squash is done cut into cubes and add into the risotto mix. I keep the skins on, but if you don’t like them then scoop out the fleshy part with a spoon. Finally add in the frozen peas and season with salt and pepper.
- Give everything a good stir through and allow for the peas to defrost through – should take 2 minutes.
- Serve up and top with a little grated cheese and some fresh peppery rocket!