Barley with mushrooms – great winter comfort food!

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The wintery Jerusalem weather these past few days warranted comfort food – plenty of stodgy carbs to keep the internal furnace going! This particular dish is one that I usually trot out when we’re entertaining vegetarians as it’s hearty and substantial. I don’t recall where the original recipe is from but I do recall that it was referred to as a risotto which plainly it’s not as there is no rice involved and the technique is far simpler – which is a huge plus. I’ve tweaked the original recipe too and it does lend itself to being played with.

For your store cupboard – dried mushrooms are a really wonderful thing to have lying around the place. They add great flavour and texture to soups, stews, rice and pretty much anything else that you can think of throwing them into. I generally use Shiitake as they’re the cheaper type but it’s worth mixing them up with some Porcini for variety – they’re more expensive but buying by weight you’ll find that you don’t need very much. Soaking them in hot water both re-hydrates the mushrooms and gives a wonderful cooking liquid (just be careful to filter out any grit!) I also recommend keeping sun-dried tomatoes around – they also work really well in this dish, adding colour and texture. They’re simple to make at home when tomatoes are cheap and plentiful. I had a fail this time – didn’t have any and didn’t fancy braving the snow to find them.

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Ingredients

2 cups of mushrooms roughly chopped – a mixture is more fun but plain button mushrooms will do – just no cans please!

optional – handful of dried mushrooms soaked in hot water and roughly chopped

1 cup of barley

1 large onion – diced

3 or 4 fat garlic cloves

1/2 tsp of turmeric

salt and pepper to taste

3 cups of stock (or soaking liquid from the mushrooms)

Sun dried tomatoes (optional)

to serve: chopped parsley, lemon wedges or pickled lemon (you can see that I’ve used the latter in the title picture)

Fry the onion until translucent. Throw in the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds before adding the mushrooms. Continue cooking for 5 minutes then throw in the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil and then reduce and simmer for about 45 minutes until barley softens (you want it to have bite – not to be mushy).

Serve as a side dish or main course. With some extra stock it would be an excellent soup.

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