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Pearl Barley Risotto with Morels and Wild Garlic


This ‘risotto’ uses pearl barley instead of rice. Its nutty flavour and light yet pleasantly nubbly texture work well with the richness of the morels – and it also happens to have more fibre than risotto rice. Pearl barley takes a little longer to cook but you don’t need to stir constantly like you do with a traditional risotto – you can just add all of the stock at once and leave it to simmer. Wild garlic, in season at the same time as morels, adds its herby, oniony savour.

Serves : 4
Prep : 10 minutes
Cook : 40–50 minutes
  • 250g morels
  • 50g wild garlic leaves
  • 1.5 litres flavoursome vegetable (or chicken) stock
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 40g butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 300g pearl barley
  • 150ml white wine or vermouth
  • 4 tablespoons double cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A little lemon juice, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve


  1. Clean the morels using a small brush to remove any dirt or detritus, paying particular attention to the honeycomb caps. Trim away and discard any dried stem ends and slice the morels in half. Clean the hollow interior of the mushrooms with the brush and set them aside.
  2. Rinse the wild garlic leaves in cold water and leave them to drain in a colander.
  3. Put the stock into a pan and bring to the boil. Add the wild garlic leaves and cook for 3–4 minutes, until wilted but still bright green. Lift from the stock using a slotted spoon or tongs, rinse under cold water and leave to drain. Take the stock off the heat but cover with a lid to keep it hot.
  4. Set a wide, deep pan over a medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and half the butter. When the butter is melted, add the onion and cook gently for about 8 minutes, until softened but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook gently for 2 further minutes.
  5. Add the pearl barley to the pan and toss to coat with the oil and butter. Cook gently for 1 minute, then raise the heat and add the white wine. Boil rapidly until the wine is completely evaporated, then pour in the stock. Bring up to simmering point, then cover and cook gently for 40–50 minutes, until the barley is soft but with a slightly chewy texture. You may need to add a little extra hot water if the pan gets dry before the barley is cooked to your liking.
  6. About halfway through the barley’s cooking time, set a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the remaining oil and butter. When the butter is melted, add the morels. Toss them to coat in the oil and butter and cook gently for ten minutes, stirring every now and then, until softened. Tip the contents of the frying pan – morels, oil and all – into the pan of simmering barley. Stir well and continue cooking until the barley is done.
  7. There should be only a little liquid left in the barley pan at this point – if there is too much, raise the heat and let it boil away. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the blanched wild garlic leaves, the double cream and the grated cheese. Taste for seasoning and, if necessary, add a little lemon juice to brighten the flavours slightly. Serve hot with extra cheese for sprinking.


Recipe and photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK


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