It feels like the right time of year for a mushroom dish. This is one of my favourites. I usually make it with just fresh mushrooms, but I had a pack of dried porcini mushrooms in the cupboard and this seemed like the perfect dish to add them to. They were a present from my Mum who went to northern Italy this summer, for a holiday. Porcini mushrooms do add an extra rich flavour to the dish but if you don’t have them, just use a few more fresh mushrooms and more vegetable stock.
The fresh mushrooms I used were small Portobello mushrooms which have a firm texture and good, nutty flavour. I find them ideal for longer cooking techniques as they hold their shape and texture well. Brown chestnut mushrooms work well too.
To flavour the dish, I added garlic, a splash of wine, and some sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme – strong, woody aromatics that go well with earthy mushroom flavours.
In terms of making the dish, if you’ve ever made a risotto with Arborio rice, then it’s the same technique of adding the liquid to the grain, little by little, to ensure an even cooking. It’s take a bit of time, but the effort is worthwhile, and I find it strangely therapeutic, especially if accompanied with a glass of wine!
- 35g dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 red onion, peeled and sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- Large sprig of rosemary
- A few sprigs thyme
- 300g Portobello mushrooms, wiped and sliced
- 300g pearl barley, rinsed
- 150ml dry white wine
- Approx. 750ml vegetable stock
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly chopped parsley
- Put the dried mushrooms in a heatproof dish and pour over 350ml boiling water. Leave to soak for at least 30 minutes until tender, then drain well, reserving the soaking liquid, and slice.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, lidded frying pan and gently fry the onion for 10 minutes with the lid on, until tender. Stir in the garlic, herbs and Portobello mushrooms and stir fry for 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in the sliced porcinis and pearl barley, mix everything well, then pour over the wine. Bring to simmering point, and cook gently until the wine has reduced by half, stirring occasionally.
- Pour the mushroom soaking liquid into a jug and make up to 1l with vegetable stock, then pour into a saucepan and heat until hot. Keep on a low heat.
- Add one ladleful of hot stock to the barley and mushrooms, and simmer gently, stirring, until the stock has been absorbed before you add in another. Continue the ladling and simmering until all the stock is used up – this will take about 40 minutes – by which time the barley should be perfectly tender. Turn off the heat, season, cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes for the last of the stock to be absorbed.
- To serve, discard the rosemary and thyme and sprinkle with parsley. Delicious topped with handfuls of rocket or watercress.