Butternut, barley and Parmesan risotto

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Preparation info

  • Serves


    as a main course
    • Difficulty


Appears in

Vegetables: The new food heroes


By Peter Gordon

Published 2007

  • About

I’m the first to admit that a risotto should really be made with rice, but this is cooked in exactly the same way (in fact, you could use risotto rice), but with barley – a grain that is very, very good for you. The texture of this dish differs from a rice risotto because the barley grains remain quite plump and give a lovely texture to the finished dish. It reheats well, too, so if you have any left, just pop it in the microwave the following day It is lovely as either a starter or a main course if served with steamed greens.


  • 100 g butter
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 400 g butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced and rinsed if gritty
  • 2 red onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 bay leaves, halved lengthways
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 300 g barley
  • flaky salt
  • 1.75–2 litres simmering vegetable stock
  • 150 g grated Parmesan cheese


Heat a wide pan and add the butter and fennel seeds, then sauté for a minute, stirring often. Add the butternut squash with ½ teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper and sauté for 2 minutes over a moderate heat, stirring often.

Remove the butternut squash from the pan with a slotted spoon (don’t worry if any fennel seeds remain), then add the leek, onions, bay leaves and garlic, and sauté until the onions are just beginning to caramelize. Add the barley to the pan and stir for a minute, then return the butternut squash to the pan, together with 1 teaspoon of flaky salt. Mix everything together, then pour in 1 litre of the stock. Stir well while it comes to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Now you just continue to cook it like an ordinary risotto, stirring in about half a cup of simmering stock every 3–4 minutes until it’s all absorbed and the barley is just tender.

Stir in the Parmesan, taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, and serve immediately.