Barley risotto with porcini and fresh thyme

“Falling in love is like eating mushrooms. You never know if it’s the real thing until it’s too late!”

I’m back on track to empty my fridge! Last year was unbelievably generous with mushrooms. Facebook was loaded with everyone’s photos of porcini. Those gorgeous mushrooms where growing even in places where usually you wouldn’t find them. At some point it was even beyond a joke. One morning, when I was staying at my parent’s cabin, we took dogs out for a walk with my Dad, while enjoying our morning coffee on the go. Found so many porcini on the side of the road, that we had to rush back for a huge basket! Needless to say, whatever we cooked included mushrooms!

Porcini took up most of my freezer. And I have been savoring them for all kinds of occasions, but always trying to extend my resources until spring, when so little time is left until the new ones arrive.

And what better way to enjoy this forrest treat than with risotto? Well I’m sure both you and me can think of a few more :). This is my Lithuanian version of a risotto – with all local ingredients.

Ingredients (serves 1):
* 1 cup barley
* A few handfuls of porcini
* 500-600 ml stock (I used fish stock)
* 1 onion
* 5-6 garlic cloves
* Fresh thyme
* Olive oil
* Salt’n’pepper to taste

When looking at creamy risotto and reading about its preparation, it may sound like a bit of rocket science for those that are not too comfortable in the kitchen. There was a time when I thought it was complicated. Let me assure you – it’s not! Yes, it does require time and attention, but when you know what will land on your plate, I think you can spare that once in a while.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pot, add chopped garlic and onion with some thyme. Let the onion and garlic soften and add barley. Toss for a few minutes until coated with oil. Start adding stock half a cup at a time. Once it is absorbed, add a bit more. Mix barley constantly so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. This process takes about 30 minutes for grains to be properly cooked. Taste as you go.

Adding stock a bit at a time is the secret to creaminess of the grains. Trust me – if you dump the whole thing, all at once, you will not end up with the same result and texture of the grains will be completely off. 

In a pan heat the remaining olive oil, add sliced porcini, sprinkle with a bit of salt. When done – serve and enjoy! 

Bon appétit! 

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