I have an anarchic view of risotto - this one uses pearl barley instead of rice for a nutty flavour and interesting texture
My mum used to do a great mushroom and tomato risotto in a big, square electric pan, with long-grain rice and tinned tomatoes. For reasons known only to her, she added tiny bits of broken-up spaghetti - maybe to bulk it out. I subsequently grew up with an anarchic view of what a risotto should be ... Wine? Unnecessary. Arborio rice? Pfft. But mushrooms? Oh yes - I love a mushroom risotto.
I make a mushroom stock with leftover peelings. It's easy to do: dry out some mushrooms (discarded stems are good for this), keep them (frozen if you like) with onion skins and carrot peelings, then put them all in a saucepan, and add some thyme and parsley and a few cloves of garlic. Cover with water, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer for around an hour, then strain and store. If you haven't got the time or inclination, chicken stock will do - but you're missing out on an intensely good experience.(Serves 2)3 tbsp oil - I like groundnut or sunflower200g mixed mushrooms, sliced4 fat cloves of garlic, minced1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, hard green parts removed, finely sliced200g pearl barley700ml mushroom or chicken stock1 tsp picked thyme leavesSalt and pepper, to season2 tbsp cream cheese30g hard, strong cheese, gratedA fistful of parsley, roughly chopped
Put two tablespoons of oil in a wide, shallow pan on a medium heat and add the mushrooms. Cook for a few minutes to brown and soften, stirring occasionally, then remove and set to one side.
Turn down the heat, add another tablespoon of oil, then cook the garlic gently for a minute. Add the onions, stirring to stop them sticking - you want everything soft, sweet and translucent. Add the leeks and keep stirring regularly.
After around 10 minutes, pour in the pearl barley and stir. Add a splash of stock, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, and when the stock is almost all absorbed, add a little more. Repeat until the stock is used up, or the pearl barley is soft and swollen.
Add the mushrooms, thyme and seasoning, and stir through to warm for a minute or two. Remove from the heat, add the cream cheese and stir well. Serve, garnished with the cheese and parsley.For more recipe ideas, see agirlcalledjack.com or follow @MsJackMonroe on Twitter.Jack Monroe's mushroom pearl barley risotto. Photograph: Graham Turner/Guardian For the latest food news, health tips and recipes, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.