Guest Post : Barley Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms

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Extra special guest post today – not only is it our first celebrity guest post.. but the guest poster is one of my favorite foodie tweeps.

We bonded over our mutual affection for a fictional character – Jean Valjean – and our excitement over an upcoming movie featuring Hugh Jackman (yum) playing him. We’ve since found out that we have the same knives. Small world! I digress.. Mairlyn Smith is pretty awesome.

She’s also hilarious – the only professional home economist who’s also an alumnus of the Second City Comedy Troupe. As a cookbook author, and is well known for her warm personality and the wit she brings to her many TV appearances in Canada. Also? She’s adorable!

Mairlyn’s email signature – “Peace, Love, and Fibre” – hints at her culinary passion: healthy eating. Her latest cookbook, “Healthy Eating Starts Here!” is a masterpiece. Huge, beautifully photographed book featuring 140 recipes that are not only healthy, but delicious and accessible.

Today’s blog post marks another first – the first time in my life that I’ve ever followed a recipe to the letter! No adding/subtracting ingredients, or otherwise screwing with it! I’m not sure if I should be proud of that newfound ability, or mourn the loss of the claim.

Let’s go with “proud”. The recipe – from “Healthy Starts Here!” – was fabulous, and didn’t need to be messed with at all. By the time I had the ingredients simmering, my husband was circling the kitchen like an impatient shark, repeatedly declaring how awesome it all smelled, and how hungry he was. The final product did NOT disappoint! Tons of flavor, great texture, and very satisfying!

Anyway, enough of my swooning, let me turn this all over to Mairlyn!


Barley: The Unsung Hero of the Whole Grain World
By: Mairlyn Smith PHEc

Barley is a super grain that can help unclog your arteries and as well as keep your GI tract (gastro-intestinal tract) moving in the right direction.
An ancient grain – not just for use in the whiskey business – barley’s real claim to fame is its high amounts of soluble fibre, beta glucans to be specific. This type of fibre helps lower cholesterol which in turn lowers your chances of developing heart disease. It also promotes healthy blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of glucose, which makes this a winning combination for diabetics.
With heart disease ranked as the #1 killer of both men women in North America becoming proactive about the foods we eat is important. Enter foods that are high in soluble fibre. Enter: apples, beans and legumes, green peas, eggplant, oats, oat bran and barley.

Conjure up a bowl of risotto and thoughts of rice and cheese dance in most people’s heads. Give risotto a health tune-up, and what you get is a creamy cheesy risotto with the health benefits of this powerful whole grain.

When picking barley it has to be POT! (Yes, pot can be good for you, depending on the kind you are talking about.)

Pot barley is the closest we can get to the whole grain version – pearl barley has had the outer layer polished off reducing its nutrient density as well as the cooking time. For heart health and this recipe uses pot. Pot barley that is.*

Barley Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms Recipe

Every time you eat this fabulous barley dish you are getting a beta glucan rich meal. Throw in those all important garlic and onions and you have a risotto that is the equivalent to sending your heart a love letter.

1 cup (250 mL) boiling water
20-24 g dried porcini mushrooms or approx. 1 cup (250mL) – see below
6 cloves garlic – yes, 6
1 onion, minced
1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh thyme leaves, minced OR or 1 tsp (5 mL) dried thyme leaves
1 cup (250 mL) pot barley
1 tbsp (15 mL) extra virgin olive oil
3 cups (750 mL) lower sodium chicken broth
. ¾ cup (175 mL) crumbled goat feta or regular goat’s cheese {approx 3 oz/75 g}
½ cup (125 mL) frozen peas, no need to thaw – optional

1. Brush any dirt off of dried mushrooms. Place in a heat resistant bowl; pour boiling water over them and let sit covered for 15 minutes.

2. Mince garlic and set aside.

3. Place barley in a wire mesh colander and rinse under cold running water. Set aside to drain.

4. Read all of Step 5 before doing anything, one of my reality testers read the first part of the next section and stopped at the comma after mushrooms. It’ll make sense when you read it.

5. When your 15 minutes is up, drain the mushrooms, (note comma) reserving the liquid. Chop drained mushrooms and set aside.

6. Heat a medium/large pot over medium heat. Add oil and onions and sauté for 3 minutes or until the onions are just starting to turn golden brown. Add garlic and thyme and sauté for 1 minute.

7. Add barley and sauté for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, reserved mushroom liquid and chopped mushrooms, stirring well to make sure any bits clinging to the bottom of the pot are mixed in. Bring to a boil, stir once more, cover, reduce heat to low/simmer and cook for 50-55 minutes or until barley is tender but not mushy. Stir occasionally to promote the creaminess of a risotto.

8. When done, remove from heat, stir, sprinkled with cheese and stir in. If adding peas stir in now. Let sit for 5 minutes and serve.

* Marie’s Note: I was unable to find “pot barley” in the local grocery stores. Not too much of a surprise – there are some odd differences in nomenclature between certain Canadian / US foodstuffs. Technology is a great thing – between photos of the options, and twitter, Mairlyn and I were able to determine that “Hull-less Barley” (by Bob’s Red Mill) is what she refers to as “pot barley).

Makes – 5 cups (1.25 L)
One serving = 1 cup (250 mL)

One serving contains:
306 calories, 12 g total fat, 6.4 g sat fat, 0 g trans fat, 478 mg sodium, 38 g carbs, 9 g fibre, 3 g sugar, 15 g protein

Diabetes Food Choice Values Per Serving
2 Carbohydrates, 2 Meat and Alternatives, 1 Fat

Grocery Store Search

Dried porcini mushrooms are Italian mushrooms add a smoky, meaty flavour to any dish. You can find packaged dried porcini mushrooms in larger grocery stores in the produce department. And just because nothing is easy, depending on the brand and the store, they come in different size packages. If you don’t have any luck, check out an Italian grocery store and if that seems like way too much work or you don’t live anywhere close to an Italian grocery store, then choose dried shiitake mushrooms which are becoming more readily available.

1 thought on “Guest Post : Barley Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms

  1. This is an amazing meal, I had every reason to circle the kitchen like an impatient shark! I love the texture of the pot barley, it’s almost like a firm pop, but not in a chewy or difficult-to-eat way. The mushrooms are amazing, and the goat cheese adds a wonderful sharpness to the dish. I love it, this will definitely be a repeat!

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