Sunday, 8 January 2012

Candlelight Dinners: Pearl Barley and Kale Risotto

This weekend, me and electricity haven't really seen eye to eye. 

Firstly, on Friday, my laptop charger broke and the computer shop couldn't fix it. So, I'm waiting for a replacement that I've had to buy.

Then, in the evening, the house's electricity tripped out. 

We don't know why, but after spending a couple of hours with Dad trying to figure it out, I rang a neighbour (who's a plasterer) to see if he had any mates that could help. He directed us to another neighbour, who happened to be an electrician.

The poor fella came around and spent about 4 hours trying to help us. Long story short: we couldn't find the problem. 

That night we ate by candlelight.

The following evening, the electrician came around to help, again.

After another 4 hours, we think we've narrowed down where the problem is, but not what it is.

Still, at least we had most of the house's power back. 

Even if I did had to cook in the dark at one point.

Oh, we also lost all our recordings on the Sky box. 

And, the wifi didn't work for ages. So frustrating. 

So, on to the food.

In truth, this was a bit of an experiment. 

That sort of worked.

I love a good risotto, but our family (well, me and Mum) are trying to be healthy. 

Hence, substituting risotto rice with pearl barley.

Half the calories and half the price.

The flavour is great. Very wholesome, especially with the umami paste. 

The texture gets a bit of getting use to, though. 

 Pearl Barley and Kale Risotto

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp olive oil
500g pearl barley
1 tsp umami paste
About 2 1/2 litres chicken stock, kept heated in a pan
100g kale, sliced
50g pecorino, grated plus extra to serve
Basil oil, optional

Gently fry the onion, garlic and herbs in the oil for 2 minutes in a deep pan, then add the pearly barley and stir for 5 minutes. Add the umami paste.

Next, stir in a ladle of the chicken stock and allow to simmer. Gradually add the rest of the stock, a bit at a time - when the pearl barley has absorbed most of it. 

This will take 45-60 minutes. Make sure you stir it regularly and often.

10 minutes from the end, throw in the kale and the pecorino. 

Season to taste and serve with more grated cheese and a drizzle of basil oil.


  1. I've been planning to make a pearl barley risotto for about a year but still haven't got around to it - I think I'm worried I'm the only one who'll appreciate it! This looks good but I'm a bit nervous that the texture takes some getting used to. I may have to do some persuading!

  2. It's worth giving it a go. It's cheap enough to make; I think a pack of 500g of pearl barley cost 60p. And if you don't like it I'd imagine you could turn it into a soup or stew.