I know I have been blogging about soups and stews and all manners of "I want to go home and stay in bed" foods during the past 2 weeks of miserable colds, school and weather. Risotto must sound like another of my comfort food posts, but it's not. Risotto is special. I haven't even heard of the thing until I came to London (don't judge, have you heard of kway chap, tutu kueh, chye tow kway before? HAH.) My cold is over, the projects are over (for this week at least), and the weather is oddly getting more tolerable. So I decided to treat myself to a touch of fanciness.
But I didn't have the 2 key ingredients to a usual risotto: arborio rice and stock. I was looking at my larder again to see what I did have. I saw barley, which cooks up nice and "glue-y" too while retaining its shape, (not to mention being great for the skin and digestion) hurray! And for the cooking stock, I deferred to my usual asian cupboard essentials for quick stock (dashi): dried shiitake mushrooms and kelp. Hence this risotto, or barley-otto. <-- Edit: I realise there is a name for this kind of dish, it's called an orzotto. Boo.
Shiitake Mushroom Barley Risotto
70g pearl barley
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 piece of dried kelp (otherwise known as kombu)
2 large shallots, finely chopped
small splash of rice wine
1 tbsp of "sweet dark" soy sauce (made from equal amts of traditionally fermented soy sauce and molasses, or you can use unrefined sugar)
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp olive oil
white pepper, to taste
chopped parsley and spring onion, to finish
1. Briefly rinse, then soak the shiitake mushrooms and kelp in about 1 cup warm water for about 30 min. Reserve kelp for something else, slice the shiitake mushrooms up and let it marinade in the sweet soy sauce and sesame oil. Bring the dashi up to a simmer.
2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan, and saute the chopped shallots till soft and translucent.
3. Add the barley and saute for about 2 min or so (it will not really get translucent like with rice). When it gets a bit toasted, add the splash of rice wine and stir until it evaporates.
4. Add a ladleful of the hot stock, stir until it has almost all been absorbed, then add the next ladleful. Continue like this on low heat but still keeping everything at a simmer, until the barley is cooked. It will be about 30 min, or when the barley is tender but still have a bit of bite and is kind of runny at the same time.
5. Meanwhile, saute the marinated mushrooms in a separate pan. Stir into the risotto for the last couple of minutes.
6. Remove the risotto from the heat, taste and season with white pepper and sea salt if necessary (note kelp is also salty), and then stir in the chopped parsley and spring onions.
I really like this! The barley gives a quite different flavour and an extra nutty texture to the risotto. It's also perfect for the fall/winter, because it immediately brings to mind hearty wholesome stews. I definitely will do this again with other vegetables when I've got some good homemade stock, not that the shiitake-kelp stock wasn't good; it was delicious with the barley, very savoury and full of umami.
I know it's yet another kitchen make-do, but it did turn out well, and one day, one day, I will be rich and spend it all on my kitchen (: