Risotto is a labor of love. Cooking rice, in my kitchen, usually means bunging it into a pressure cooker or a saucepan with liquid and letting it steam away all by itself for a few minutes until it emerges all cooked and ready to eat.
But a risotto, while not really difficult, can take an hour to make, sometimes more, and requires some intensive kitchen labor. You need to stand by it for almost as long as it takes to cook, carefully adding a few tablespoons of water or stock at a time and stirring, until the grain has acquired just the right consistency.
Needless to say, I rarely make it. When I get home from work, I usually have 30 minutes to an hour to make dinner and get it on our plates and into our tummies. And standing over a hot stove for an hour is certainly not appealing!
But this past weekend I wanted to indulge myself and Desi, and a risotto seemed just the perfect dish for a winter evening.
I decided to go with barley instead of rice, because I love this robust, healthful grain loaded with protein and fiber. Of course, it took longer to cook than rice would, but, oh well, it was a Sunday. And the results were well worth it!
I also added some vegan sour cream at the tail-end, to enhance the creamy consistency that's one of the best things about risotto (and is usually acquired by adding cheese). It was my first time using this product, and although it was a little saltier than regular sour cream, it was amazingly similar in taste otherwise.
The finished risotto looked perfect- the barley is beautiful and luminous when cooked- and this would be the perfect dish to impress someone, if you can invest the time.
This dish is great paired with a spicy Indian curry, like My Dad's "Not Mutton" Mushroom Curry, or just by itself.
Pearly Vegan Mushroom-Barley Risotto
2 cups pearl barley
8-10 cups hot vegetable stock or hot water
3 cups of mushrooms, chopped (I used crimini and shiitake)
1 cup white wine
1 large onion, minced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 heaping tbsp vegan sour cream
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
Heat the canola oil in a saucepan.
Add the onions and garlic and saute on a low heat until the onions turn translucent.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the dried basil.
Add the mushrooms and saute for a minute.
Now add the barley and stir for a minute until all the grains are coated with oil.
Add the wine and simmer on a low heat, stirring, until the wine has almost evaporated.
Add the water or stock, 1/2 cup at a time, to the risotto, stirring after each addition. Wait until most of the stock has been absorbed before you add the next 1/2 cup. Do this until the barley is quite tender but has a slight bite to it. This should take about an hour.
Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Add the sour cream and stir around to spread evenly through the risotto.
Turn off heat and mix in the parsley.