Pearled Barley Risotto with Fresh Asparagus and Mushrooms

Asparagus and Mushroom Pearled Barley Risotto

Learning to cook can be a daunting task.

Last week, NPR posted an article titled “Learning A New Skill Works Best To Keep Your Brain Sharp.” While the rest of us are busy buying into expensive supplements and “superfoods” to increase brain power, the seniors in this study took up new skills. From grandpas taking up quilting to grannies taking up digital photography and Photoshop, this research paper published in the Journal of Psychological Science was just too cute.

Asparagus and Mushroom Pearled Barley Risotto

Memory tests were performed after 3 months and then compared to control groups, and guess what – significant memory gains in the new skills group! And better yet, the increase in memory was maintained a year later.

“Barley contains beta-glucans which has been shown to help reduce cholesterol levels. Barley is generally available in pearled, hulled and flaked form and can be added to soups, baking and salads.”


Learning to make risotto can also be a daunting task. If you have never done it before, get ready to lay down some new neuro-pathways. If you have, then this barley-twist helps to add some nutrition to an otherwise not-so-nutritious dish. For this recipe I used pearled barley to closer resemble Arborio rice; pearled barley is slightly more refined than pot barley and therefore has less fibre. Pot barley would also work for this recipe, it would just need about 10 minutes longer to cook and about 1 extra cup of vegetable stock.

Asparagus and Mushroom Pearled Barley Risotto

Recipe for Pearled Barley Risotto with Fresh Asparagus and Mushrooms

Recipe by: Rachel
Serves: 4
Time To Finish: 45-60 minutes

Ingredients for Pearled Barley Risotto with Fresh Asparagus and Mushrooms

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 cup pearled barley
4 cups organic vegetable stock*
3 cups water
450kg or 1 lbs of fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups sliced brown mushrooms
1 cup basil, thinly sliced
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated**
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
optional: 1/4 cup pine nut’s, toasted

*homemade is best
**parmesan cheese is not suitable for strict vegetarians. Omit or find another suitable hard cheese.

Method for Pearled Barley Risotto with Fresh Asparagus and Mushrooms

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the diced onion and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the barley and cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly.

Add 2 cups of the stock to the barley and continue to cook over medium heat. Once the stock is almost evaporated add 1 more cup of stock. Continue to cook the barley mixture down. Once again, once almost all the liquid has evaporated add the last cup of stock. Continue this process, but now adding the water in place of stock.

Once you have added 4 cups of stock and 2 cups of water the barley mixture should be nice and tender. Once the liquid has almost evaporated add the asparagus and mushroom with the last cup of water. Simmer until the liquid is almost evaporated.

Remove from heat and add parmesan cheese, pine nuts (if using) and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Nutrition Information for Pearled Barley Risotto with Fresh Asparagus and Mushrooms

Calories 190 cal
Fat 7g
Saturated Fat 2g
Carbohydrate 23g
Fibre 4.3g
Protein 12g
Sodium 174mg
Calcium 120mg
Iron 3.8mg

Asparagus and Mushroom Pearled Barley Risotto

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