Barley, Porcini & Asparagus Risotto

Barley, Porcini & Asparagus Risotto
Serves 4
Wholesome and earthy, this is a new take on a comforting mushroom risotto

This tasty dish uses pearl barley rather than rice to create the foundation of a ‘risotto’. Barley has long been renowned as a strengthening grain eaten by athletes in ancient Greek and Roman times. A rich source of magnesium, B vitamin Niacin, maltose and dietary fiber, eating barley helps balance insulin levels, protect against cardiovascular risk, lower cholesterol, maintain a healthy colon and fuel liver and muscle cells.

In addition, porcini mushrooms, or cepes, are full of vitamins B1, 6, 9 and 12, supporting nerve, heart, immune, liver and neurological health. Potassium, zinc and copper also help improve the cardiovascular, digestive and heart health, among many others.

This dish makes a hearty, energy-giving lunch or comforting evening dinner with a satisfying earthy taste that will also boost the morale.


70g dried porcini
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
900 ml vegetable stock or water
300g pearl barley
6 asparagus spears, woody ends removed
8 cherry tomatoes (optional)

Cashew Cheese

200g cashew nuts, soaked overnight
15g lemon juice
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp or more to taste sea salt
30 - 50g water (or more to help to blend)


In a metal bowl soak the dried porcini in the boiling water until softened, around 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the soaking liquid. Rinse the mushrooms to remove any grit, and finely chop.

Rinse cashews and add all the ingredients for the cheese in high-speed blender. Blend it to a smooth consistency and keep in the refrigerator.

Cook the asparagus in boiling water for a few minutes until just tender. Drain, allow them to cool, then chop into small pieces and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat two tablespoons of the olive oil, add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat for two minutes, stirring, until softened. Add the porcini and cook for another few minutes; then add the barley, stir and cook another two minutes.

Add the porcini soaking liquid and 3/4 of the vegetable stock or water to the mushrooms. Bring to a boil and simmer to reduce, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes, adding more liquid to keep moist if necessary.

When cooked remove from the heat and add lemon juice, salt, white pepper, and half of the cashew cheese, continuing to stir well until all ingredients are well incorporated. Add more stock, salt and pepper as necessary.

Coat the asparagus and cherry tomatoes with olive oil and salt, place them on a metal tray and toast in hot oven.

Place the risotto in the centre of the plate, followed by the asparagus and tomatoes on the top. Add half a tablespoon of cashew cheese in the centre and garnish with fresh basil.


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