Sunday, 9 September 2012

Barley Risotto

A few months ago (I am a bit slow at keeping the blog updated at times!) I headed south of the border to Galway. I had never ventured to this part of the Emerald Isle before and had a wonderful time exploring the city, meandering along its colourful streets and generally enjoying the craic. Whilst searching for a restaurant for dinner one evening the heavens suddenly opened and my friend and I were driven into the closest eating establishment that we came across. Luckily we had stumbled into the delightful Ard Bia, a warm, cosy and quirky little place, that prides itself on using the best local produce and finest Irish ingredients in its food. I chose a fish dish that was accompanied by a barley risotto, where the traditional rice is replaced by pearl barley. This wasn’t something I had ever tried before but I was pleasantly surprised by its smooth and creamy texture, providing just a little more bite than a regular risotto.

After visiting Galway I continued further south to The Burren, a stunning area of Ireland famous for its impressive karst landscape, where I was fortunate enough to be staying just up the road from the BurrenSmokehouse. As a self-confessed foodie I was like a kid in a sweet shop as I wandered into the smokehouse’s shop and found myself filling my bags with beautifully smoked meats and fish to bring back to the north!

Returning from my travels with bags stuffed full of smoked mackerel and memories of my delightful meal at Ard Bia I decided to have a go at a rice free risotto myself using my recent purchase as one of the main ingredients…so here is the result.


½ onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
100g mushrooms, sliced
150g pearl barley
½ litre warm vegetable stock
50ml white wine
2 smoked mackerel fillets
100g peas
Handful fresh parsley

Serves 2

Place a large saucepan or wok over a medium heat, add a good glug of olive oil and then gently sweat the onions along with the bay leaf in the pan until the onions begin to soften.

Add the mushrooms until they begin to colour and then add the barley and stir so that all of the ingredients are mixed well together.

Turn the heat up a little and add the white wine, stirring until the liquid is absorbed.

Add a ladleful of the stock to the mixture and allow to cook gently adding another ladle of stock as the mixture begins to dry a out. Continue cooking the mixture this way for about 30 minutes (the barley takes longer to cook than risotto rice).

After about 30 minutes add the peas to the mixture and flake in the mackerel. Add any remaining stock and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.

Season to taste and just before serving add a large handful of freshly chopped parsley.

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