Orzotto is like risotto, just better! Instead of rice, it’s made with pearl barley, and in this case: Hulled barley, my new favorite grain.
Whole grains are always better for you than the refined ones, but their flavour can be a little overpowering sometimes. It’s not the case with hulled barley (In Danish: perlespelt), one of the most ancient grains there is. It has an even higher nutritional value than that of oats and rye, and I find that its nutty flavor and chewy texture always just adds to any dish I’m using it in, being it a side dish, a salad, a stew, a burger patty, or as a main component in a delicious orzotto. Try this whole grain’s flake version (similar to rolled oats) in your morning porridge or granola!
If you’d make a traditional Italian orzotto, you would need to gradually add the liquid of choice to this whole but still so fine grain, but using pre-cooked barley works just as good if, like me, you don’t feel like standing by the stove stirring intensely for about an hour.
Even more than rice, hulled barley expands a lot when you cook it. One cup of barley goes a long way. I usually cook 1 cup, store it in the fridge and use it in the next two to three days in various dishes.
How to cook hulled barley (super basic recipe):
1 cup of hulled barley (DK: perlespelt)
3 cups of water
pinch of salt
Boil 3 cups of water in a small pot that has a well fitting lid.
Add 1 cup of barley and a pinch of salt on a medium heat and boil for about 5 minutes. Give it a stir, cover with the lid, lower the temperature to minimum heat and let it slowly cook, steam and grow for about 40 minutes.
After 40 minutes take a look at it and taste. It should be fine, but if the grain is older or fresher, the cooking time can differ a little bit, also: some like their barley chewier than others. If not soft enough to your taste, give it more time under the lid, if the texture feels right but seems a bit too wet, remove lid, give it a stir and let it dry for 5 more minutes on low heat. You can’t go wrong with barley, it’s not as tricky as white rice.
Mushroom-Kale Orzotto Recipe
3 cups of water
1 cup of hulled barley
1 tbsp of dried – soaked mushrooms (optional)
4 cloves of garlic (2 for cooking the barley and another 2 for the ragout)
1 medium sized onion (1/2 for barley cooking, 1/2 for ragout)
salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil to taste
about 1/2 cup of white wine
2-3 tbsp of soy creamer (optional)
2-3 tbsp mushroom sauce
3 tbsp of vegetable fond or 1tsp powdered fond
400 g chopped kale
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp toasted seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame…)
- Boil 3 cups of water in a small pot
- On a medium heat, add 1 cup of hulled barley, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 3 tbsp of vegetable fond or 1 tsp powdered fond, 1/2 onion pealed or 2 tsp onion powder, 2 cloves of garlic or 1 tsp garlic powder, some dried forest mushrooms: soaked for a few minutes (optional)
- After 5 minutes, lower the heat, cover with a lid
- Let it simmer for about 40 min
- In a frying pan, on medium heat sauté 1 small head of finely chopped onion for about 5 minutes
- Add about 400 g chopped mushrooms of your favorite kind and saute for another 5 minutes
- Add 2 handful of roughly chopped kale
- Add 2 cloves of crushed garlic, 2tbsp of mushroom soy sauce or tamari soy sauce, and the spices: black pepper, thyme, rosemary to taste
- When the mushrooms seem adequately dehydrated, pour in 100 ml (1 dl) white wine and let it reduce
- Keep the ragout moist but not too wet, adding a tiny bit of broth/water/soy creamer or wine every now and then
- When the taste and texture feels about ready, add a heap tbsp of nutritional yeast
- Take aside a few tablespoons of the mushroom ragout for topping
- Stir the cooked barley into the mushroom ragout, one spoon at a time so you can adjust the mushroom-barley ratio just the way you like it
- Serve and top with some of the ragout, toasted seeds and chopped fresh parsley or basil or both!