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Pearl barley, cavolo nero, beetroot and Goats cheese risotto recipe

I love pearl barley. LOVE it. And if I didn’t love it enough because of how tasty and versatile it is, I love it even more because it is so cheap. It costs roughly 50p for a 500g bag.

I have had pearl barley dishes at some of my favourite London restaurants / cafes – Petersham Nurseries, Polpo and Meatballs to name a few, each dish different. Salads, stews, risottos, you name it. I have cooked it a fair few times myself too, most recently with lamb.

A few weeks ago I was staying with a friend in Stoke Newington and she introduced me to the best green grocers I have ever come across. Situated on Newington Green, the appropriately and simply titled Newington Green Fruit and Vegetetables sells a wide (and when I say wide, I mean wide) range of vegetables, exitoc fruits, herbs and condiments. And the best thing is the prices. I bought a huge bag of veg for a mere £8, something that would have cost double the price in my favourite supermarket!

In my bag of goodies was a bunch of cavolo nero and a couple of fresh beetroot so it was easy to decide what to do with them when I got them home. I also added a crumbling of fresh, tangy goats cheese. Delicious.

Pearl barley, roast beetroot, cavolo nero and goats cheese risotto

Ingredients (serves two)

• 400g pearl barley, rinsed and soaked for 1 hour
• 1 glass white wine
• 800ml vegetable stock
• 3 balls fresh beetroot
• 8 leaves cavolo nero, shredded
• Goat’s cheese to crumble
• salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste
• extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
• 50g butter
• 1 large red onion, finely chopped


1. Preheat the oven to 200degrees and wash the beetroot
2. Chop the beetroot into medium sized cubes. Place in a roasting dish and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes, or until soft
3. Boil the vegetable stock and keep simmering while using
4. Add a glug of olive oil and the butter to a heavy bottomed pan. Season with salt and pepper and add the onions. Fry gently on a medium heat until translucent
5. Drain the pearl barley and add to the pan with the onions. Fry for two minutes, whilst stirring and then add the white wine and fry until the wine has almost all gone
6. Add a ladle of water and stir. When the stock has nearly been absorbed, add another ladle and repeat until you have one ladle of stock left
7. When the pearl barley is nearly ready (it will be soft with a slight crunch), add that last ladle of water along with the cavolo nero, place a lid on the top and steam for 3 minutes, or until the cavolo nero is wilted
8. Take the beetroot out of the oven and stir through the risotto. Season with salt and black pepper if needed and add a squeeze of lemon juice before serving



  1. Pearl barley and cavolo nero are two of my favourite ingredients at the moment – can’t get enough of the leafy iron rich greens and barley is a lovely alternative to rice or couscous. Your risotto looks gorgeous in its simplicity.

  2. Oroklini says

    I can report this works just as well with ready-cooked beetroot, feta, kale and a bit of extra lemon zest. I baked it rather than cooking traditional risotto style, in an oven at 150C for about 20 minutes, and that made it easier as well (add about another 100-200ml of stock). What a fantastic combination of flavours – really loved it.

    • Food for Think says

      That sounds like a great way of cooking it! Might give it a go myself… I adore feta and kale so sure i’ll love this version too. Thanks.

    • Food for Think says

      Yes definitely, just leave it out. You could also substitute it for any other roasted vegetable that you like…

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