mushroom and barley ‘risotto’













Typical April weather calls occasionally for, no, demands the food equivalent of woolly jumpers or cashmere cardigans: soups and stews to keep warm and cozy when the temperature drops suddenly from 20 to 5 degrees. My grandmother’s vegetable and barley soup usually fits that bill being nurturing and full of great memories at the same time, though I’ve had plenty of vegetable soup already in past couple of weeks (my back-up lunch when I could not be bothered). There were bags full of various mushrooms from my last market trip and so a mushroom & barley ‘risotto’ or ‘pearlotto’ was just the thing to go for.

I love the different textures of these mushrooms, especially the intensity and sylvan notes of the trompettes de mort while king oyster deliver bite as well as substance and shiitake a decidedly mushroomy taste. It doesn’t always have to be porcini although I would be the last person to prevent you from adding a few. British swedes / turnips / rutabaga or Steckrüben for the Germans are a nice addition here for a sweet undertone to lighten the barley load a bit. Being a staple in Cornish pasties (the reason why I had one at home) it is slowly but steadily coming back to German markets after a serious image overhaul (from food deprivation fare to forgotten heritage veg). Blitzing all vegetables in the food processor is of course totally unnecessary if you’ve got the time energy to chop everything to minuscule brunoise but being suddenly ravenous and exhausted at the same time makes me cherish the food processor for these menial jobs (double plus: it also fits in the dishwasher). I thought I‘d never say or do anything as practical as this.





Mushroom & pearl barley ‘risotto’

Yield: 4-6 portions. For a vegetarian / vegan version change chicken to vegetable broth.

1 medium carrot
1 celery stalk
1 yellow onion
½ swede / turnip / rutabaga
2-3 sprigs thyme
700-900g / about 2 lbs. mushrooms (I used king oyster mushrooms, shiitake, oyster mushrooms and dried black trumpets / trompettes de mort)
¾ -1 litre / 3-4 cups chicken stock
150g / ¾ cup pearl barley
salt, pepper

optional: grated Parmesan

Roughly chop the carrot, celery and onion, then blitz in a food processor (or chop very finely). In a medium cast iron pot melt a knob of butter and sweat the soffritto over medium heat until softened (ca. 8-10 minutes), add the equally finely cut turnip, thyme and season with salt & pepper. In the meantime chop the mushrooms into slices and bite size pieces and add them to the vegetables. Cook for about 5 minutes then pour in the chicken stock and bring to a slight boil. Add the pearl barley, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Check the seasoning and serve.


Cooking ahead: If you are cooking this stew / ‘risotto’ ahead and plan to reheat it later, don’t let all the broth disappear since the barley and mushrooms will absorb liquid more while it cools down.

Soup: For a mushroom & barley soup reduce the amount of barley and increase the stock if necessary.





Deutsches Rezept:



Perlgraupen’risotto’ mit Pilzen

Ergibt 4-6 Portionen. Für eine vegetarische or vegane Version einfach Hühnerbrühe durch Gemüsebrühe ersetzen.

1 Möhre
1 Stange Bleichsellerie
1 Zwiebel
½ Steckrübe
700-900g Pilze (ich habe Kräuterseitlinge, Shiitake, braune Champignons, Austernpilze und getrocknete Totentrompeten verwendet)
¾-1 Liter Hühnerbrühe
150g Perlgraupen
Salz, Pfeffer

optional: geriebener Parmesan

Möhre, Bleichsellerie und Zwiebel in grobe Stücke schneiden, dann in der Küchenmaschine sehr klein hacken (das geht natürlich auch mit dem Küchenmesser). In einem mittelgroßen gußeisernen Schmortopf bei mittlerer Hitze ein ordentliches Stück Butter schmelzen und das Soffritto für ca. 8-10 Minuten anschwitzen (aber nicht bräunen). Dann die ebenfalls fein gehackte Steckrübe und den Thymian hinzugeben, mit Salz und Pfeffer würzen. In der Zwischenzeit die Pilze in Scheiben und mundgerechte Stücke schneiden und zu dem Gemüse geben. Für ca. 5 Minuten kochen, dann die Hühnerbrühe angießen und zum Kochen bringen. Perlgraupen einstreuen, die Hitze reduzieren und ca. 20 Minuten leicht simmern oder bis die meiste Flüssigkeit aufgesaugt ist. Eventuell nachwürzen.


Vorkochen: Das Perlgraupen’risotto’ kann man großartig vorkochen. In dem Fall sollte man nicht die ganze Flüssigkeit einkochen lassen, da das Gericht weiterhin Brühe aufsaugt während es abkühlt.

Suppe: Für eine Suppe einfach die Graupenmenge reduzieren und die Brühe nicht so stark einkochen lassen oder etwas mehr nehmen.



12 thoughts on “mushroom and barley ‘risotto’

  1. Perfect for this rubbish weather here, as well! a wonderful alternative to rice and I really like the swede addition. Being pro-mixer myself, my advice is to keep on blitzing. Thank you Nicole Jx

    • Mixed bag here today, as if someone permanently plays with the light switch. Always good to have a swede in the house – perfect pun just for you, sorry, could not help myself. Who else would suggest the perfect combination of sole & scallops & asparagus? N xx

    • Liebe Gerlinde, unsere Familie ist auch zweigeteilt wenn es um Graupensuppe geht. Meine Cousine und ich lieben sie, unsere Mütter haben davon früher zuviel essen müssen. Das Risotto ist vielleicht eine Versöhnung mit den Graupen wert…

  2. Ha, pearlotto, what a great neologism! Love that, as much as I adore that recipe. Mushrooms in or with whatever -otto, I´d never say o to that. And that mushroom medley sounds a-ma-zing, too, btw, trompettes de mort , shiitake, wonderful.
    As of the practical aspects of kitchen gadgets: you got me there,totally, I´m a new and may I say oh so proud owner of a kitchen aid machine (in other words the first thing of that kind that has ever entered my kitchen ) 😉 Hope you´re doing fine!

    • Hi Sabine, welcome to the dark side (of kitchen paraphernalia heaven) and (sort of) hands-free baking. No more holding the mixer and splattering dough, cream etc. over your blouse. Can’t lay claim to that wonderful name, would be great though!
      I am doing fine, experiencing the side effects / pleasures of the last few weeks: water, huge belly and my feet moving out of sight and just when I was hoping for a warm April (flip flops!) winter returns. Sigh, Nicole.

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