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Optimal Health Kitchen: Mushroom Pearl Barley Risotto with Roasted Carrots

Updated: May 6

Here's a hearty, healthy, winter season dish! Pearl barley makes a great change from rice in risottos, and you won’t need to continuously stir it. This mushroom risotto is topped with beautifully sweet and nutty roasted rosemary carrots.

Easy to prepare. 1 hour 20 minutes start to finish. Serves 4.


  • dried wild mushrooms or porcini 1/2 ounce (about 1/4 cup)

  • olive oil 2 tbsp

  • leek 1 large, sliced

  • garlic 2 cloves, crushed

  • pearl barley 2 1/4 cups, rinsed

  • baby carrots 2 cups, cut into bite-size pieces

  • rosemary 2 sprigs, chopped

  • chestnut mushrooms 2 cups, sliced

  • crème fraîche 3 tbsp

  • lemon 1, zested

  • parmesan (or vegetarian alternative) 1/4 cup, finely grated


STEP 1: Put the dried mushrooms in a large heatproof jug and cover with 5 cups of just-boiled water. Set aside to soak.

STEP 2: Heat ½ tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the leeks for 10 minutes until tender. Add the garlic and fry for a minute more. Stir in the barley, then add the rehydrated mushrooms along with most of their soaking liquid (leave the last dregs in the jug, as this may contain grit). Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, stirring frequently and covering halfway through, until the barley is tender with a slight bite (it shouldn’t be firm).

STEP 3: Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400F. Tip the carrots onto a roasting tray, drizzle over 1 tbsp of oil and scatter with some seasoning and the rosemary. Toss well. Roast for 30-35 minutes or until the carrots are tender throughout.

STEP 4: Heat the remaining ½ tbsp of oil in a deep frying pan or shallow pan over a medium heat and fry the chestnut mushrooms with a pinch of salt for 10 minutes until lightly golden and tender. Scrape out onto a plate.

STEP 5: When the barley is tender, stir the mushrooms, crème fraîche and some of the lemon zest and cheese through the risotto. Taste for seasoning. Top with the roasted carrots and any rosemary oil left in the tray. Scatter with the remaining lemon zest, cheese and a crack of black pepper to serve.


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