Pearl barley, mushroom, cauliflower, kale and truffle

Pearl barley is a such a good alternative to rice for a risotto (which this recipe basically is) – it’s healthier, its tastier and the texture is much more interesting than arborio. I cooked this for my Mother’s birthday recently and it went down a storm and despite it having lots of bits, it’s actually really easy!

This recipe serves 4 people.


  • 15g Dried porcini mushrooms
  • 200ml Boiling water
  • 1 Bay leaf (fresh is best)
  • 1 Banana shallot, finely sliced
  • 125g Shiitake mushrooms
  • 400ml Good-quality cider
  • 25g Butter
  • 1/2 Cauliflower
  • 100g Kale, rinsed and dried
  • Pinch of Caster sugar
  • 300g Pearl barley
  • 25g Butter
  • 150ml White wine
  • 1 litre Vegetable stock
  • 20g Plain flour
  • 20g Butter
  • 300ml Vegetable stock
  • 40g Parmesan, diced
  • 1 Lemon
  • Truffle oil, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil


Braised mushrooms:

  1. Start by soaking the dried mushrooms in boiling water. These give a really punchy, earthy, mushroomy flavour to the dish and so they are well worth using as well as the fresh ones. Place the bay leaf in with the mushrooms while they’re soaking.
  2. Meanwhile, sweat the shallot in a saucepan over a low heat with a good glug of cooking oil and a pinch of salt. The salt will help to draw the moisture out of the shallot and break them down more quickly. The aim is for the shallot to have no texture – this will take approximately 15 minutes.
  3. Cut the shiitakes into bitesize chunks and add these along with the re-hydrated porcini, to the shallot and sweat for a couple of minutes. Add the cider and the mushroom soaking liquor and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Then, cover the pan, turn the heat down and gently simmer until the mushrooms are tender and the liquor has been reduced down to give a really intense sauce.
  4. Before serving, stir 25g of butter through and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Pearl barley:

  1. Melt 25g of butter in a saucepan, add the pearl barley and coat in the melted butter. Cook until the pearl barley is sizzling and then add the white wine.
  2. Once the wine has been fully absorbed by the grains, start adding the stock, ensuring that all of the liquid is absorbed before adding anymore.
  3. The barley is done when it’s tender all the way through but still has a decent bite to it. This should take approximately 30 minutes.
  4. Add a good amount of salt and pepper to really bring the natural flavour out of the barley.

Crispy Kale:

  1. Pick the leaves into large, bitesize pieces and toss in 1 tbsp cooking oil. Lay all of the pieces out on a large baking sheet so they are well spread out and roast at 180 C for 5 – 10 minutes until the pieces are crisp but still beautiful and green.
  2. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the caster sugar and a pinch of salt and then lay out on a tray lined with j-cloth to absorb any residual grease and keep them crispy.

Roasted cauliflower:

  1. Break the cauliflower down into individual florets and then carefully slice these into thin steaks. They should look like cross-sections of a floret.
  2. Lay them out onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper and drizzle with cooking oil and sprinkle with salt.
  3. Roast at 180 C for 5 – 10 minutes and then turn and roast for a further 5 minutes or until beautiful and golden.

Parmesan and truffle veloute:

  1. Melt 20g of butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Add the flour and stir to combine with the butter to form a roux. Cook this roux out for approximately 5 minutes until it turns a straw-colour and smells biscuity. This cooking out of the roux is important as it will prevent the veloute from becoming too thick but will give it a beautiful, silky texture.
  2. Once the roux is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and slowly whisk in the stock ensuring that no lumps are formed. Once all of the stock has been added, return the pan to a medium heat and stir continuously until the sauce thickens a little.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat again and add the Parmesan, ensuring it is all covered in the sauce, place a lid over the pan and then allow to it to sit for 5 minutes.
  4. Using a stick blender, blitz the sauce until all of the Parmesan has been combined evenly.
  5. Then, again using the stick blender, emulsify the truffle oil into the sauce. Add as much truffle as you want, it goes beautifully with the cauliflower and pearl barley but be warned that a lot of truffle oils are extremely punchy in flavour!
  6. Finally, adjust the seasoning on the veloute with salt, pepper and lemon juice. The lemon juice will help to balance the saltiness from the cheese and just lift the freshness of the sauce.

Serve this dish however you wish but I find it best to layer things up with the veloute being the final thing to go on the plate.