I’m a huge fan of barley benefits: it’s high in fiber and helps lower cholesterol; it’s very nutritious and enriches any stews, broths or even salads. When I saw the unreasonable prices of risotto rice in Singaporean shops, I quickly turned to a barley recipe as a perfect solution! Since I’m making the effort to buy more local produce and use the local market as much as I can, instead of kale or broccoli exported from far countries, I chose a local green, gai lan (Chinese Broccoli). These veggies have a very interesting flavour: the leaves are almost bitter and the stem tastes a lot like broccoli. If this is too exotic for you (or you live in a country where gai lan would be the expensive choice), use kale or broccoli, and you will have a very successful result nevertheless. You can easily turn this recipe vegan by frying the onion and garlic in your favourite cooking oil, and skipping the addition of butter at the end of the process.
The recipe serves two generous portions.
250g pearl barley
300g Gai Lan (Chinese broccoli)
2 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
70g grated parmesan cheese
1 vegetable stock cube
1 pinch of saffron threads
salt and pepper
half a lemon grated zest
Step 1 – In preparation for the dish, grate your parmesan and wash thoroughly the greens under running water. Wash the pearl barley in running water as well and place it in a sieve, so it looses all the excess water.
Step 2 – Simmer the Chinese Cabbage into boiling water for 5 minutes. Then drain it without throwing the water away. Use the same water to make a vegetable stock, by adding one stock cube and some salt if needed. If you are not vegetarian, you might want to add a chicken stock cube, or you can even use a home made stock previously prepared.
Step 3 – Finely chop the onion and the garlic and fry them in in a pot with 50g butter. Once they reach a gentle brown colour, add the barley, mixing it so it doesn’t get stuck. At this point, you could add a splash of white wine and let it evaporate, but it’s up to you. This time I didn’t because I didn’t have wine at hand, but I recommend it, as it gives an extra flavour to your risotto.
Step 4 – Add a ladle or two of stock to cover the barley. Stir gently every now and then, to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the broth has been absorbed completely, you can repeat the process.
Step 5 – When the barley is half cooked, and that should be after the third time you have added stock, you can add the gai lan to the pan, and keep the process of adding stock and let the veggies and the barley cook together.
Step 6 – Now that you are almost at the end of the cooking process, crash a pinch of saffron threads using a pestle and mortar, and let it melt into a half a glass of stock. Add the saffron stock to the pan, and you’ll see your barley will take a golden colour, as well as a marvellous saffron aroma.
Step 7 – If your barley is tender, you can stop adding the stock and just let the excess liquid be absorbed before turning the hob off. This should give you enough time to look after the last few steps.
Step 8 – Adjust in salt and add grounded black pepper. Add the rest of the butter to make your risotto even creamier before serving, and enrich it using part of the parmesan cheese. Serve the rest at the table in case someone wants to have extra cheese! Since Chinese Broccoli have a little tangy taste, I wanted to add an extra touch to make the risotto even fresher to the palate: I grated the zest of half a lemon and added it to the plates before serving. It certainly was a success!
What’s your favourite way to use barley? Let us know if you try this recipe!Follow @blenderbasil