Pearl Barley Risotto with Mushroom & Three-Cornered Leek

The hungry gap is back for another year as we get through the last of the previous season’s produce and wait for the next season to start. Thank goodness for the few winter stalwarts of purple sprouting broccoli, cabbages and kale, but also the wild mushrooms and three-cornered leek. At this time of year I’m often seeking something warm and comforting, and so I turn to stews like my venison stew from this post, or this wild winter pottage, but one of my favourites is a simple risotto.

Three-cornered leek is a bit of an unsung hero in a culinary sense. It appears much earlier in the season than it’s famous cousin, wild garlic, but it’s just as delicious and really easy to identify. The leaves are much thinner and longer than wild garlic leaves, and they have a very distinctive groove down the middle and a very strong chive & garlic smell when cut or bruised. A cross-section of the flower stem reveals a triangular shape which gives three-cornered leek its name. In the spring it has clusters of lovely white flowers that droop a bit like bluebells. I might call it a hero, but in a lot of ways it’s also a nuisance as it is an invasive plant that spreads rapidly – so much so that it’s even illegal to plant or otherwise cause it to grow! As far as I’m concerned that makes it even more attractive as an edible because I can feel that I’m doing our native plants a favour.

I’ve used pearl barley instead of rice in this recipe as I think it has a nuttiness to it that works really well for me in winter, and I really love the texture of it. When I run out of pearl barley at home, I’m going to try the organic naked barley from Hodmedod’s that is grown in the UK and looks really wholesome! The “risotto” comes together just the same as it does with Arborio rice, but the barley grains retain just that extra smidge of their shape. The key to this recipe though is to use a stock with plenty of flavour – a mushroom broth made with ceps or shiitakes is going to bring a beautiful umami to your risotto.

Pearl Barley Risotto with Mushroom & Three-Cornered Leek Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 150g pearl barley
  • 100ml white wine
  • 10g dried mushrooms
  • 150g fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 litre stock
  • Handful of three-cornered leek (or wild garlic) roughly chopped into 2-inch lengths
  • Salt & pepper
  • 25g parmesan

Method

  1. In a small bowl, pour hot water over the dried mushrooms until just covered and leave to rehydrate for about 30 minutes. Strain the liquid into your stock, reserving the now rehydrated mushroom pieces and discarding just the last couple of tablespoons of water which may be gritty. Set your stock on a low heat in a saucepan next to your frying pan.
  2. Heat the olive oil in your frying pan and soften the onion slowly over a fairly low heat. Once translucent, stir in the rehydrated and fresh mushrooms until they are also softened.
  3. Add the pearl barley and stir until well coated in oil. Turn the heat to medium and pour over the white wine. Cook until not much liquid remains in the pan.
  4. Add a ladleful of your stock to the pearl barley and simmer, stirring regularly, until the liquid has almost disappeared. Add another ladleful and repeat the process until the pearl barley is cooked through. If you run out of stock you can continue with water, just make sure you keep tasting and adjusting the seasoning if it needs it (be mindful that you’ll be adding parmesan at the end which will also add a salty hit).
  5. Once the barley is cooked, stir in the parmesan and three-cornered leek. Once combined, remove from the heat and leave to rest for 2-3 minutes to allow the barley to finish plumping up, the cheese to melt fully, and the three-cornered leek to wilt slightly.

Let me know if you give this recipe a try by tagging me @plotandlane on Instagram or commenting below!

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