Spring Vegetable Barley Risotto

Barley was Scotland's primary crop well beyond that of oats up until the 17th century. Now barley grown in Scotland is mainly used for whisky. Barley's texture and ability to soak up stock makes it perfect for using as a healthy type of risotto instead of risotto rice. .

4-6 Portions
Prep: 10-15 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes


  • 2 tbsp virgin olive oil
  • 300g barley
  • 500ml vegetable or chicken boiling stock (stock cube may be used)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 200g peas, freshly podded
  • 1 bunch of Asparagus, bottoms trimmed and stalk finely chopped leaving 2-3cm stem below the tips (set aside two thirds of the asparagus tips)
  • 2 medium plum or vine ripened tomatoes, diced
  • 3 tbsp mint leaves, shredded
  • 2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • 50 g grated parmesan
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper

To Serve

  • 1 tbsp parmesan shavings
  • 50g pine nuts toasted
  • asparagus tips (reserved), blanched in boiling water for 1 minute
  • 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped


  1. Risotto: Place the olive oil in a large saucepan over a moderate heat. When the oil is hot add the onion and sweat them until transparent add the garlic and barley to the pan and cook them stirring regularly for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Gradually stir in half the boiling stock. Bring the stock to a steady simmer and leave it to cook for 20 minutes stirring it regularly until almost all the stock has been absorbed. Add the rest of the stock to the barley and repeat the process for a further 20 minutes, at which time the barley should be tender with a little bite to it and the stock should be mainly absorbed. If the barley is still firm add a little more stock or water and allow it to cook for a further 5-10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the peas and asparagus and cook them with the barley for 5 minutes so that vegetables are tender.
  4. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the mint, parsley, tomatoes, butter, seasoning and parmesan, and mix it until well distributed.
  5. To Serve: Place the risotto in serving bowls and place the asparagus sprigs in the centre. Scatter the pine nuts over the top and sprinkle the parsley and parmesan shavings around the risotto. Serve.