Daring Cooks Challenge (Mar’10) Pumpkin, carrot and barley risotto

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

I wished I had a little more time for this challenge as risotto is one of my favourite comfort food in winter. It has been such a jam packed period and with parents-in-law coming over for a visit, this is what I can offer and I hope it is not too shabby!

Spare home made vegetable and chicken stock is always available in my freezer. So I happen to have a box of vegetable stock that I had used for this month’s challenge. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the frozen stock. It is a very simple vegetable stock and I usually use odd pieces and cuttings from vegetables that I use for other cooking.

Basic vegetable stock (makes 2L)

Ingredients:

Just to note that you can use whole carrots, celery stalks and parsley, I just happen to keep these off cuts.

  • Spare heads and tails of carrots
  • Spare ends and leafy tops of celery stalks
  • 1 onion roughly chopped
  • Parsley stalks
  • 1 sweet corn
  • 3 bay leafs
  • 5-6 peppercorns
  • 2L of cold water

Method:

  1. Chuck all the ingredients in cold water and slowly bring it to a simmer
  2. Remove any scums that floats to the top
  3. Allow it to simmer at low heat for about an hour. Pass the stock through a sieve
  4. Allow it to cool to room temperature and then store in air tight container in the freezer or place into ice trays and bag them once it is frozen
pumpkin and carrots

Diced pumpkin and carrots with sage in the background

Pumpkin, carrot and barley risotto

Ingredients:

  • 240g butternut pumpkin, diced into small cubes
  • 200g carrots, diced into small cubes
  • 140g pearl barley, soaked for at least 1 hour
  • 40g shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 20g of unsalted butter
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 1 handful of basil
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • Sprigs of fresh parsley for garnishing
  • Sat and pepper to taste
Soaked and drained barley

Soaked and drained barley

Method:

  1. In a heated pan or pot, add the onions and brown it. Then add the pumpkin, carrots and minced garlic and fry till everything is lightly browned.
  2. Add the drained barley and white wine. Cook till white wine is all evaporated
  3. Add the stock, cover and allow it to simmer for approximately 45mins. Remember to check on water levels to make sure it does not dry up
  4. Taste to check that the barley is soft. Make sure that the mixture is not dried up and is just a little soupy. Remove from heat and add in the butter. Stir through and the mixture will start to thicken
  5. Add the cheese and give it another good stir. Season accordingly, add sprigs of fresh parsley and serve immediately
Pumpkin, carrot and barley risotto

Pumpkin, carrot and barley risotto

Surprisingly, I loved it! It is still quite rich as a risotto is but also felt quite light as a dish. It is a breeze to cook this and a big advantage because unlike normal risotto, barley does not need constant stirring. Once everything is in the pot, it is left to simmer till ready. This makes a really good vegetarian dish. The taste is very clean and the sweetness comes from all the vegetables. And I am glad that even Mister gave it a thumbs up!

Do you have a dessert recipe that uses barley? Please share!