Barley, chanterelle and spinach risotto

“The trouble with eating italian food is that 5 or 6 days later you are hungry again!”

I love risotto. There are many different risotto recipes with different ingredients, but they are all based on rice cooked in a standard procedure. I’ve always been cooking it with Arborio or Carnaroli rice. In Italy a much wider variety besides those mentioned is used – Baldo, Maratelli, Padano, Roma, and Vialone Nano. 

Instead of cooking it with the regular risotto rice, I tried finding a way to cook it with typical local grains. Tried using barley for a substitute and I think I kind of nailed it.
The main ingredients – barley, spinach and chanterelles are all found locally. The only other “foreign” ingredient was coconut milk and wine, of course. Trying to make risotto also vegan friendly (or at least optional) is a bit difficult. But having faced the challenge of finding something to eat in the restaurants that wouldn’t contain any dairy products or eggs for a certain period, I’m trying to explore other options. The tough part is trying to find the ingredients that would give the dish the satisfying creaminess and filling effect. Coconut milk provided that little bit of extra richness.

* Barley
* Chanterelles
* Spinach
* Coconut milk
* Red onion
* Garlic
* Thyme
* Oregano
* White wine
* Extra virgin olive oil
* Salt’n’pepper

Takes about an hour to make. A bit of patience is needed – risotto requires constant stirring. Stirring loosens the starch molecules from the outside of the grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy – textured liquid. Properly cooked risotto is rich and creamy but still with some resistance or bite: al dente, and with separate grains.
Slice the onion and chop the garlic cloves. For proportion measures – 1 red onion to 1/2 garlic. Heat some olive oil, add the onion and the chopped garlic. Fry until tender. Add thyme and oregano. The earthiness of those herbs compliment the taste of chanterelles. Add rinsed barley and cook until barley looks moist and coated with olive oil. Add some salt and pepper, pour a glass of wine and let it simmer for a few minutes, until wine evaporates.
Most versions of risotto recipes will suggest using vegetable or chicken stock. I used plain boiled water. Start adding some hot boiled water a cup at a time, letting it simmer down and then adding some more, stirring constantly.
It will take about 40 minutes for barley to cook. Try it to see if it’s not overcooked. Once barley is cooked, add chopped spinach and a few tablespoons of coconut milk – it adds that little bit of creamy texture.
While barley is being cooked, prepare the mushrooms – heat some olive oil, add chopped garlic and fry chanterelles for 10-15 minutes over medium heat, sprinkle with a bit of salt.
Toss the chanterelles with risotto, sprinkle with grated parmigiano cheese and serve.

Bon appetit!

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