Pearl barley risotto

Considering my recent subscription to the lazy food movement, risotto probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think of labour-free cookery.

Of course, proper risotto involves giving yourself a repetitive strain injury, and possibly slipping into a higher state of consciousness, as you lose yourself to stirring. But I’ve got no time for that – there’s wallpaper to be stripped.

The trick is to switch traditional rice for pearl barley, a brilliant but underused grain that’s cheap as chips (55p for 500g) and requires only a periodic shuffle around the pan.

The result is slightly less unctuous and creamy, because there’s far less in the way of starch released from the grain, but that does correspond to fewer calories too.

I’ve used up the other breast from the chicken I bought at the weekend, some parmesan, a little wine (finished off with the dinner), and other bits from the store cupboard.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Serves: 2 with leftovers


  • 150g pearl barley
  • 1 large chicken breast, diced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1tsp garlic puree
  • 1/2 mug of frozen peas
  • 1 chicken stock cube dissolved in 300ml hot water
  • 1 small glass of white wine
  • 1tsp white pepper
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 handful freshly-grated parmesan
  • 2tbsp lemon juice
  • Olive oil


  1. In a large frying pan, add the oil, garlic and onion and fry on a low heat for 5 minutes until translucent.
  2. Turn up the heat, add the chicken breast, fry until lightly coloured all over, then add the salt and pepper.
  3. Add the pearl barley and stir to ensure it’s coated in oil. Toast for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the stock and wine, then turn up the heat and boil for 10 minutes.
  5. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the peas and parmesan, and stir continuously for 5 minutes.
  7. Add the lemon juice and stir through immediately before serving.



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