A good risotto needs a really good stock.
I made a really tasty stock from our turkey at Christmas time. It was taking up room in the freezer, so making a risotto was going to be the perfect way to use it up.
Risottos typically use aborio rice, a short grain rice with a high starch (amylose) content which contributes to a risottos creamy texture. Many other grains can be used in place of aborio rice, but I really love the nutty flavour and chewy texture that you get from using barley. Although it isn’t as creamy as a rice risotto, I think it is tastier and I also find that it is more filling than using rice.
Barley is an under-utilized grain in Australian cuisine. It is usually just added to soups like lamb shank and barley soup, however it can be used in salads, casseroles, stews, pilafs, risottos, to stuff vegetables, as well as a side dish in place of rice, barley flakes can be eaten for breakfast and barley flour can be used in baking.
Barley is packed with vitamins (such as B & E), minerals (including selenium), antioxidants and phytonutrients (like lignans which reduce the risk of hormone related cancers like breast cancer). It is also high in both insoluble and soluble fibres, which provide a healthy food source for the good bacteria in your bowels. Insoluble fibre promotes a healthy digestive system and reduces the risk of cancers, in particular bowel cancer. The soluble fibre barley contains, beta-glucan, the same as oats, can help to lower cholesterol levels.
Barley is very low GI (around 22) which means it is very slowly broken down, provides a slow release of energy and will keep you full for longer. This is very helpful for anyone trying to maintain or lose weight.
So I encourage you to start using this grain and try some different ways of cooking with it, starting with this risotto!
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 1 long red chilli, deseeded and chopped
- 1 cup pearled barley
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 3½ - 4 cups chicken stock*
- 3 (approx 350g) chicken thigh fillets, each cut into 4 pieces
- 200g mushrooms, quartered (I used ½ button & ½ Swiss brown)
- 2 medium zucchinis, cut in half lengthways, then slice 1 cm wide
- ½ cup shelled edamame (you can replace with 2 cups of baby spinach leaves)
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- pepper to taste
- Heat a large pot over medium heat. When hot add 1 tablespoon of oil, the butter and onions and cook onions until they soften, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add garlic and chilli, sautee for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the barley and stir to coat with oil and butter mix for 2 minutes.
- Add the wine and cook until it evaporates.
- Meanwhile, bring the stock to the boil in a saucepan, then turn down to a simmer.
- Ladle in about 1 cup of stock at a time and stir with a wooden spoon until this evaporates. After adding 3 cups, add the last cup a quarter at a time. The risotto should not be too dry or too wet and soup-like. It will take about 40-50 minutes to cook, for the barley to become tender.
- Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over medium heat. When hot add 1-2 teaspoons of oil and the chicken thigh fillets. Cook for a few minutes on each side until brown.
- Remove chicken from frying pan and add to barley mixture. (It will need at least 15 minutes in the risotto to ensure it is cooked through)
- Add 1-2 teaspoons of oil to the same frying pan, over medium heat, along with half of the mushrooms and cook until soft and lightly browned.
- Remove mushrooms from frying pan and add to barley mixture along with zucchini.
- With 5-10 minutes to go, cook the remaining mushrooms and stir through the risotto along with the edamame.
- When cooked add pepper, then taste and add soy sauce as necessary. Spoon into bowls. Serve with steamed broccoli and beans.
*Note: Either make your own stock or use a good shop bought one. It will be more expensive, but it really does make a significant difference to the flavour and enjoyment.
I can highly recommend Massel concentrated liquid Chicken Stock which is easily available in the supermarkets.
Per Serve: 1972kJ or 470 calories; P 30g Fat 20g SFat 5g CHO 38g Fibre 9g