Pearl Barley Risotto with Mushrooms, Wild Garlic and Truffle Oil

Another wild garlic recipe just before the season is well and truly up (this can easily be made with regular garlic either). This is a handy lunchbox recipe, at it is easy to make a few portions at a time, and keeps and reheats well. Pearl barley creates a similar fluffy texture to risotto rice if cooked properly, and is cheaper (although Tesco seems to vary its prices wildly from week to week from 35p to 69p which although not a lot is nearly doubling the price with no explanation). The jury is still out on whether it is healthier.

There are wildly different instructions as to how long to cook pearl barley for. I have seen anything from 20 to 45 minutes. I find the best results around the 35 minute mark, keeping it covered with stock and simmering for the first 30 minutes, and then having five careful minutes at the end where you allow the remaining stock to be cooked and absorbed, stirring frequently (and taking a bit to taste to make sure it is ready).Unlike risotto, I have seen no particular benefit or effect from adding the stock gradually.

I know parmesan is traditional for risotto, but since this isn’t proper risotto, a nice crumbly mature cheddar, blue cheese, or goats cheese all work very nicely with the flavours if you don’t have any parmesan to hand. Truffle oil is a bit decadent, but quite a good investment for this as a little goes a long way (I am into my 5th month with a 100ml bottle and it still has 75% left).

Serves 4.


  • 350g fresh mushrooms
  • 25g rehydrated wild mushrooms
  • 200g leeks
  • 100g cheese
  • 275g pearl barley
  • 100ml white wine or sherry
  • 1 handful wild garlic
  • 30g butter
  • About 500-750ml stock
  • Olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of truffle oil (optional)


  • Finely chop the leeks, and sauté in a large saucepan over medium-low heat in a little olive oil until softening and colouring a bit, about 5 – 7 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, wash and roughly chop the wild garlic.
  • Add to the saucepan and allow to wilt (about 3 minutes).
  • Add the pearl barley and stir well to incorporate flavours.
  • Add the wine and cook down until completely reduced and absorbed.
  • Pour in enough stock to cover the pearl barley by about 1-2cm.
  • Leave to simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, wash and roughly chop the mushrooms.
  • Saute in a frying pan with a little oil over a medium heat until cooked, about 8-10 minutes depending on how well done you like them (I like mine quite browned to get a proper nutty flavour from them).
  • Season and cover with tinfoil to keep warm.
  • After 30 minutes of cooking the barley, reduce the heat until it is gently bubbling and stirring regularly, cook until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.
  • Add the mushrooms, cheese, butter, and truffle oil (if using).
  • Season well and serve.

2 thoughts on “Pearl Barley Risotto with Mushrooms, Wild Garlic and Truffle Oil

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