Recipe: Barley Risotto from the Swamp!

dinner2OK, let’s be honest, here.  This is neither a risotto, nor is it from the swamp – though I did just have to check on Wikipedia whether you can actually grow sorrel in swamps.  It turns out that you can’t.  It also turns out that sorrel is poisonous in large quantities, because it contains oxalic acid.  So now I’m feeling rather nervous.

But because I love you all and would really rather not poison you (it’s too late now for Andrew and me, clearly) I’m writing this post on Sunday, and scheduling it to go up on my blog on Tuesday.  So if there is a post on my blog on Monday, you can assume that we are alive and well and that this recipe is safe to cook.  That, or that we are very hardy indeed, and possibly from the swamp ourselves.

(OK, I shared my findings with Andrew, and he made me look up actual quantities.  He’s such a spoilsport.  Anyway, it turns out that we  would have to work a lot harder to poison ourselves with sorrel, though eating it every day isn’t recommended, and it isn’t the best for people with dodgy kidneys.  So please do take a bit of care if that’s something that affects you.)

Right, that’s probably enough morbid humour for one blog post.  Let’s get back to this stew, which really does look as though it comes from the swamp – sorrell turns out to be a leafy green that goes a truly grim khaki as soon as it wilts.  But the flavour is delicious – light and tangy and acidic, and just the thing to eat at the end of a weekend full of (let’s face it) far too much rich food…

Your shopping list

220 g barley
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
3 golden shallots
1 red onion
salt, pepper
400 g tinned tomatoes in their juice (or home-tinned ones from your freezer, in my case)
800 g stock, or water with mushroom salt in it in my case
150 g fresh broad beans, podded but not yet skinned
1 bunch of sorrel.  Go on, I dare you!
100 g feta cheese

Now what will you do with it?

Put your barley in a largeish bowl, and pour boiling water over it to cover it.  Leave for at least ten minutes, or the amount of time it takes you to wander off and read some things on the internet and forget all about making dinner.

Drain the barley.

Heat the butter and oil in a largeish saucepan.  Chop the onion and shallots finely, and add them to the butter, cooking for a few minutes until they are soft.  Add the barley, and cook for a few more minutes, stirring to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the tinned tomatoes and stock to simmering point in a small saucepan.  Add to the barley, a ladleful at a time, stirring often until everything is absorbed.  This will probably take 20-30 minutes.


While this is going on, bring another small saucepan of water to the  boil (or, if you were brighter than me, you could have done this before adding the stock to the saucepan) and add the broadbeans.  Boil for a few minutes, and then drain and refresh with cold water.  Slip off the skins and set aside.


Wash the sorrel and chop it coarsely.  When the barley is nearly done, add it to the saucepan and stir slowly until it wilts and goes swamp-like.


Add the broad beans and stir again.  Let cook for another minute or so.


Crumble in the feta, stir a final time and serve in all its tangy deliciousness.



You could make this with almost any leafy green instead of sorrel (though if it’s the oxalic acid that worries you, spinach is actually not much better), and just add some lemon juice at the end of cooking for a similar flavour.

This recipe is vegan if you leave out the feta, and I really think it’s hardly needed.  It’s also nut-free, of course, but not gluten-free.  For a gluten-free version, you could, of course, revert to your favourite risotto recipe with actual rice and just use these flavourings.  Oh, and it’s fairly low GI, because that’s how barley swings!  Woohoo!

It still looks like it came from the swamp, though.



One year ago:        Gluten-free love
Two years ago:     Basics that aren’t: Béchamel Sauce and variations
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4 comments for “Recipe: Barley Risotto from the Swamp!

  1. filkferengi
    May 14, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Those blue cups are lovely!

    • Catherine
      May 14, 2013 at 4:57 pm

      Thank you! I think so, too.

  2. Merrian
    May 17, 2013 at 12:00 am

    Hi Catherine,

    What would you substitute for the shallots or any onion-like thing in dishes like this? I have asafoetida but am never sure how much to use.

    Cheers, Merrian

    • Catherine
      May 17, 2013 at 9:58 am

      I tend to use fennel quite a lot in place of onion – it has a different flavour, but works as a base for me. Of course, the main person I cook for who can’t eat onion can eat garlic, so I use that, too. I haven’t worked with asafoetida, but my understanding is that less is more – maybe start with 1/4 teaspoon and work upward?

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