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Pearl Barley Risotto with Spring Vegetables

Inspired by Pearl Barley Risotto by Daylesford in 'A Love for Food', this recipe is a wonderful mid-week supper as it can be adapted to use the spring vegetables you have in the fridge.  The beauty of this dish is that it is made with pearl barley so you can add the stock all at once because it cooks differently to rice. Not such a faff if you are juggling other dishes at the same time.

By replacing the butter and any cheese with plant-based alternatives, it is suitable for vegans too.

Prep: 15 mins

Cook: 50 mins

Serves: 4 

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  • 90g butter or plant-based alternative

  • 1 medium onion finely chopped or 1 large leek, sliced

  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed

  • 285g pearl barley

  • 125ml white wine (optional)

  • 1.25 litres of good vegetable stock or 1.35 litres if not using white wine 

  • A selection of Spring vegetables making 300g in total, for example:

  • 150g asparagus, thinly sliced, tips whole

  • 150g beans such as edamame

  • 150g peas fresh or frozen


  • 4 Spring onions, white parts thinly sliced

  • 100g Fresh greens – spinach, spring greens


  • 2tsps fresh lemon juice

  • Fresh chives or mint, chopped

  • 75g Parmesan cheese (or vegan alternative if preferred), finely grated and extra, shaved, to finish


  • Sea salt

  • Ground pepper

  • 2 tsps extra virgin olive oil


Melt 50g of the butter in a large non-stick saucepan or flame-proof casserole and gently cook the onion/leek and garlic until softened, stirring from time to time.


Rinse the barley under running water and add to the pan. Pour in the white wine and cook for about 5 minutes to cook out the alcohol. Stir in the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer for around 30-35 mins, stirring occasionally until the barley is tender and most of the liquid has gone. The consistency should be creamy and a little loose.


Stir in the asparagus, peas or other vegetables and the spring greens and cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are just tender but still have bite.


Remove from the heat. Stir in Parmesan cheese, the lemon juice and season generously.


Scatter with fresh herbs and parmesan shavings to taste. 

Suggested Pairing

A Fresh Sauvignon Blanc based Bordeaux white,   Château George 7 Blanc of course would fit the bill.


The fresh, citrusy acidity is the perfect complement for fresh vegetables. Fermented in oak it has enough weight and depth to balance with the earthy notes of barley.

If you prefer red, try a Clairet. A Bordeaux speciality half way between a red and a rosé – the perfect compromise. 

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