© Chef Michael Smith 2019

The many different mushrooms at your supermarket are all prized for their deep earthy flavours and unique textures. These distinctive vegetables are uniquely the above-the-ground fruit of a below-the-ground fungus. Mushrooms are at their meaty best in a batch of slowly simmering barley cooked like a batch of classic risotto. You’ll fill more than Half Your Plate with this hearty dish!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6, more as a side dish


5 or 6 cups of real chicken broth, canned low-salt broth, vegetable broth or plain water
2 or 3 tablespoons of butter
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 head of garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 pound of assorted fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup of any wine
1 cup of pearl or pot barley
1 bay leaf
4 to 6 ounces of grated Parmigiano Reggianocheese
4 to 6 sprigs or more of fresh rosemary or thyme, finely minced
a handful of fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped


Bring the chicken broth to a full furious boil in a heavy saucepot. Turn off the heat, cover tightly and keep it hot until you’re ready for it.

Melt the butter in a second heavy saucepot or large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic, cover tightly and cook slowly, stirring frequently, until soft and fragrant, 5 minutes or so. Toss in the mushrooms, pour in the wine and stir together. Cover tightly and simmer until the mushrooms soften and fully release their juices, 5 minutes or so.

Stir in the barley, bay leaf and the first 2 cups of the hot broth. Bring the works to a slow, steady simmer, stirring frequently until the broth is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Stir in another cup or so of broth and continue the cycle, adding more and broth until the barley is tender, about an hour. Taste the barley along the way monitoring its texture, continuing until you like it.

Stir the fresh rosemary or thyme into the risotto towards the end of the cooking time. Taste the dish and adjust the seasoning as need be. Finish with the fresh parsley and cheese. Serve and share.


Risotto is a classic Italian rice dish generally crafted from a particular type of high starch rice but its basic methodology works equally well with other whole grains like barley. | There are lots of different mushrooms in todays supermarkets. You can rely on standard whites but give shiitake, cremini, portabella, oyster and others a try too. |  This risotto is excellent with plain white button or brown cremini mushrooms. Reserve more exotic varieties for a garnishing role so you can show off all their mushroomy glory.