Rissotto has long been a staple in our autumn and winter menus. I love the heartiness and the versatility of them – perfect for the season.  We have had a good blast of autumn weather in the past week and those of you in the Southern Hemisphere might be still experiencing some blustery spring weather. Where ever you are, if you are experiencing a rainy windy day, you might enjoy hunkering down to a bowl of this:

Pumpkin Barley Risotto

(adapted from Heidi Swanston’s Winder Risotto-Style Barley)

3 Tablespoons of olive oil

3 – 4 shallots, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups lightly pearled barley

1 cup white wine

6 cups of broth or water

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1/2 cup sour cream

2 cups (or so) of cubed steamed pumpkin

a handful of fresh sage leaves

1/4 cup butter


Heat the olive oil in a heavy dutch oven over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic and salt. Sauté, stirring constantly until the shallot softens.

Add the barley and stir for about a minute. Add the wine and simmer for 3-4 minutes until much of the alcohol smell burns off. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle, active simmer.

Begin to add the broth (or water) one cup at a time, letting the barley absorb most of the liquid between additions. This takes about 40 minutes. You won’t have to stir as obsessively as with a risotto, but often enough so as to to scorch the grains at the bottom. In the meantime, add the butter to a small sauce pan and heat until it turns brown. As soon as it does, throw in your sage leaves. They will crisp up nicely. Pour into a bowl to cool. When the barley is cooked, you will know because it won’t offer up as much resistance when chewed (however it will be chewier than Arborio rice). Don’t worry if a bit of liquid remains unabsorbed. It’s fine if this dish is a bit brothy.

When the barley is tender, stir in the pumpkin. Stir it around a bit so that it breaks up and loses its shape a bit. Give the pot a good dose of freshly ground black pepper. Stir through the sour cream to taste. (Start with a 1/4 of a cup and add more as desired.) Stir through the Parmesan. Dish up the risotto and drizzle each bowl with some of the brown butter. Garnish with sage leaves.


Lean back and enjoy!