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Yotam Ottolenghi’s Pot Barley and Lentils with Mushrooms and Sweet Spices

Hearty, warming and full of earthy flavour, Yotam Ottolenghi's mushroom pot barley stew is a soothing recipe made for crisp autumnal evenings.

From the book

Yotam Ottolenghi


I’ve always tended to cook with pearl barley, so pot barley was a real revelation after Diana Henry suggested I use it instead of rice for a take on lentil mejadra. Unlike pearl barley – whose hulled, polished and tender nature makes it very happy to take on more robust flavours – pot barley’s inherent nuttiness and bite allows it to sing more independently in a dish. With more to get through before the grain is cooked, pot barley takes longer to cook than the pearled version but soaking it in cold water the night before will speed things along. It’s a robust and versatile grain that can be used instead of pasta, rice, couscous or bulgar. I’m finding all sorts of excuses to eat it with every meal at the moment – savoury and sweet.

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20g dried porcini mushrooms
120g pot barley, covered with cold water and soaked overnight
170g brown lentils
2 medium onions (240g in total), 1 peeled, halved and thinly sliced; the other peeled, halved and cut into 2cm-wide wedges
2 tbsp plain flour
about 600ml sunflower oil, for frying
2 tbsp olive oil
1½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large Portobello mushrooms, sliced into 1cm strips (250g)
1 lemon, rind shaved into long strips
½ tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp dried mint
1 tbsp lemon juice
10g dill, roughly chopped
10g parsley, roughly chopped
60g soured cream (optional)
salt and black pepper


Place the dried porcini in a bowl, cover with 400ml of boiling water and leave to stand for 1 hour. Once cool, lift out the mushrooms and strain the liquid through a fine sieve lined with a clean J-cloth, to remove any grit. Return the mushrooms to the liquid.

Drain the pot barley, rinse under cold water and place in a large saucepan with the lentils. Pour over plenty of cold water – it should come 5cm above the barley and lentils – place on a high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium–high and cook for 15–20 minutes, until the lentils and barley are cooked but still hold their shape. Drain, and transfer to a medium bowl to cool down. Place the onion slices in a small bowl, add the flour and shake gently. Pour the sunflower oil into a medium saucepan so that it comes 2cm up the sides.

Place on a high heat and, once hot, add half of the onion and fry for 3–4 minutes, until golden-brown. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the oil and place them on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining slices and set aside to cool.

Place the onion wedges in a large sauté pan on a high heat with the olive oil and fry for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is charred and soft. Add the ground spices and continue to cook for 30 seconds before adding the Portobello mushrooms, lemon strips, sugar and ½ teaspoon of salt. Fry for 3 minutes, until the mushrooms are starting to soften and gain some colour, stirring from time to time. Add the porcini, along with all of their soaking liquid, and boil rapidly for 5 minutes, until you have about 6 tablespoons of liquid left in the pan. Reduce the heat to low and add the lentils and barley to the pan, along with the dried mint, ¾ teaspoon of salt and a generous grind of black pepper. Stir to combine and cook for a final minute. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, dill, parsley and crispy onion. Transfer to a large serving platter or individual plates and serve warm, with a spoonful of soured cream on top, if using.

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