With all the damp weather we have been having, new mushrooms are popping up daily. Two days ago i went and collected half a bucketful of fungi - horse mushrooms, ordinary field mushrooms and a couple of young puffballs (yes! You can eat puffballs - just be sure to pick them while they are still white and fleshy, before their insides have turned to puffy dust)
I cleaned them immediately, and the husband used some that night in a stir-fry. I still had heaps left, and decided to make a mushroom risotto. There are plenty of good mushroom risotto recipes about; i of course, headed straight for Maxine Clark's 'Risotto' cookbook - she has a lovely Wild Mushroom Risotto recipe, however when looking up 'mushrooms' in the index i spotted a mushroom 'Barlotto' recipe. A barlotto is made in much the same way as a risotto, using pearl barley in place of the risotto rice, which gives a delicious chewy nuttiness to the dish. Maxine notes that when making a barlotto you can make the dish in advance and reheat it, as unlike a rice-based risotto, the cooked barley does not go soggy with keeping. This makes it a great dish for making for guests. I did a couple of things differently to the recipe given below; using a larger quantity of herbs than Maxine suggests (because i do like a reasonable amount of greenery in my meal) - i probably used about 6 tablespoons of fresh parsley and 2 tablespoons of tarragon. I also used extra mushrooms, simply because i had them available, and they needed using. Because i made the recipe ahead, i reserved a few uncooked mushrooms which i fried while re-heating the barlotto and added to the dish with the fresh herbs at the last minute. Oh - and Maxine always stipulates the use of unsalted butter, but i just use regular butter, and use less salt to season the finished product.
Maxine suggests the dish serves four, but i think the quantities given are more suited for two people, unless you really aren't very hungry - and lets face it, if you have been out foraging you probably will be hungry! I made the full amount, thinking we would have some left over for lunch the next day, but we ate it all without feeling greedy.
BARLOTTO with RED WINE and MUSHROOMS
From Maxine Clark's 'Risotto'
3 Tablespoons olive oil
175 g pearl barley, washed and drained
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
500 ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
150 ml red wine
300g fresh chanterelles (or other wild and cultivated mushrooms such as porcini or portobellos
75g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large saucepan , then add the barley and stir until it starts to turn golden (not brown) - this will take about 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and continue frying until the barley starts to brown, 5-10 minutes. Don't let it burn, but you want a good, toasted flavour.
Add the stock, soy sauce and red wine. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat, part-cover with a lid, then simmer gently until nearly all the liquid has been absorbed - this should take at least 30 minutes. The beauty of this one is that you don't need to stir it constantly.
Meanwhile, brush or scrape the mushrooms clean (slicing any bigger ones to size)and heat a fry pan until hot. Add 50 g of the butter and and all of the mushrooms. Stir-fry over medium heat until lightly browned, 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the stir-fried mushrooms to the barley and mix gently. Remove from the heat and cover with kitchen foil with a few holes pierced in it to let the barley swell and absorb all of the liquid. Leave it in a warm place for 15 minutes. (At this stage you could let the barlotto cool, reheating it for serving up to 24 hours later.)
To serve, put the barlotto pan back on the heat and beat in the parsley, tarragon and the remaining 25 g of the butter. Stir well until hot, add salt and pepper to taste and pile onto heated plates. Serve immediately.