Rachel Khoo's Toasted Pearl Barley Risotto

Rachel Khoo's autumnal risotto uses pearl barley rather than Arborio rice as an easy, no-stirring alternative. The pearl barley's nutty texture also matches well with the chanterelle mushrooms. As seen on Food Network.

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A northern Swedish dish, pölsa is made with pearl barley in almost the same way that Italians use Arborio rice to make risotto. The pearl barley is cooked with stock to make a thick porridge, then crispy fried mince and beetroot are added and it’s all topped off with a fried egg – though I’ve omitted these and topped it with mushrooms instead. It’s not exactly a dish that would be an Instagram viral hit, but with its nutty flavour the barley base is a delicious alternative to rice, and the ideal match for some autumnal chanterelles.

Serves 4-6
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 30 min
Total time: 1 h


280g pearl barley
3 knobs butter
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
sea salt
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp ground allspice
1½ litres hot vegetable or chicken stock
200g chanterelle mushrooms, brushed clean
handful chopped fresh parsley leaves
5 tbsp sour cream
50g Västerbotten, mature Cheddar or Parmesan cheese, grated


Put the pearl barley into a large dry pan and toast for about 3 minutes until golden brown, tossing regularly. Remove from the pan and set aside. Put a knob of butter into the pan and add the onion and a pinch of salt. Sweat for 5 minutes over a low heat, then add the carrot and allspice. Continue to fry until the onion is soft. Add the stock and the toasted barley and cook for a further 20 minutes or until the barley is tender. Stir occasionally and top up with extra stock if it dries out.

Put 2 knobs of butter into another pan and when it starts to sizzle, throw in the mushrooms. Season with salt. Fry for a couple of minutes over a high heat until golden, then sprinkle with most of the parsley.

Just before serving, stir the cream through the risotto. Divide the risotto between bowls and scatter over the mushrooms. Grate a little cheese over the top and sprinkle with the remaining parsley.

Top tip: The risotto makes an excellent base for lots of different toppings or vegetables. Sometimes I throw a handful of frozen peas into the mix or top it with flaky smoked fish instead of mushrooms. This is a great one to cook when you have leftovers in the fridge.

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