Barley risotto

Barley, beetroot and baby spinach risotto

Last Sunday was weird. My marriage has been through more downs than ups lately, so we were depressed and physically tired. We didn’t go to meditate and have lunch to the centre as usual, and I didn’t feel like going to the supermarket. So I quickly browsed my memory to check what was available in the pantry and fridge and decided we’d eat barley risotto.

Alvaro had asked me to teach him some kitchen chores so he can apply to kitchenhand jobs, so I offered him the opportunity to learn how to cook risotto. A different kind, but the procedure is the same.

This were the components of our lunch:
– Olive oil
– 1/2 red onion
– Barley (about 250 gr)
– Red wine (about 1/4 or 1/3 cup)
– Chicken stock (about 2 litres)
– Butter (about 2 tablespoons)
– Lots of grated Parmesan
– 1 roasted beetroot, diced
– Baby spinach leaves

I taught Alvaro how to chop an onion. He chopped it too big but it didn’t matter because nobody else was going to eat the dish. Then I guided him through all the process:
– Cook the onion in olive oil on low temperature until translucent.
– Add the barley and coat with the olive oil. Cook for a minute. Unlike rice, barley does not turn translucent, so it’s a bit more difficult to tell when the grain has been sealed with the oil.
– Add the wine, turn the heat up and wait until it evaporates.
– Add two cups of stock, which must be hot, and begin stirring non-stop. Add another cup each time the mixture is out of liquid.
– Taste for doneness when you’re in the sixth cup of broth (that’s my rule of thumb). The grain must be al dente. Barley is harder than rice, so it wasn’t. Alvaro kept adding broth until it was ready.
– When done, add salt to taste (keep it low because Parmesan is salty), turn the heat off, add the chilled butter and stir quickly to emulsify. Then add Parmesan (keep some for serving) and stir.

Barley added to the transparent Spanish onions

It was around 2:30 pm when we started cooking, so while Alvaro was stirring I assembled sweet adzuki bean rolls: leftover adzuki beans mashed and mixed with sugar, rolled into a light rye wrap.

Quick snack: sweet adzuki bean paste in light wrap

We added some leftover veggies to the risotto: a diced roasted beetroot and baby spinach leaves, as well as more Parmesan on top. The dish was delicious and satisfying, perfect for a sad Sunday afternoon. While cooking Alvaro mentioned how dangerous it was to teach him how to cook risotto, he really digs the dish and it’ll be risky to have the ingredients around from now on.

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