Wednesday 10 April 2013

Orzotto (Pearl Barley Risotto) for babies, toddlers and grown ups

I'd heard about speltotto but I didn't realise until fairly recently that making a risotto with barley is actually a traditional thing in parts of Italy (well so Wikipedia tells me).  So, I gave it a go.

First of all, the downsides.  It takes a lot longer to cook than a risotto.  The upsides though are pearl barley is about half the price of risotto rice, it's a source of fibre and it has more flavour of it's own unlike arborio which acts more like the canvas rather than the painting.

So this is my recipe, this is my first attempt and I have to say it was pretty good.  My son had seconds and he's been a bit of a fuss pot recently.  Personally I would have cooked it 5 mins longer than the 40 minutes I did but it was still delicious.  It would be able to take more robust (and less traditional) flavours than a risotto too without being overpowered.  A strong mature goat's cheese would be nice or even blue cheese.  But this is what we had and it was good.  Not bad for leftovers and some cheap grains.

Chicken and Pea Orzotto - serves 2 adults and 1 toddler


1 Small onion
2 Cloves of garlic
2 tsp of chicken fat or butter (see note below)
150g, 5.5oz Pearl Barley
1/2 tsp White wine vinegar
850ml, 1.5pints Chicken stock (preferably home made)
A bay leaf
200g, 7oz Cooked chicken
100g, 3.5oz Frozen small peas

To finish
2 generous tbsp Parmesan or other cheese of your choice
Small knob of butter
Parsley if liked


If you've had a roast chicken at the weekend, this is a great way to use up leftovers.  Make stock from the bones and you will probably find once it cools there is a thin layer of fat on the surface.  Well it might sound weird but why not use this to fry your onions?  Ok, not up for that?  Use a little butter.  Anyway, peel and finely chop the onion and gently fry in a frying pan in the chicken fat or butter until softened.  Put the stock onto heat up with the bay leaf until simmering.  Add the garlic and then the pearl barley.  Stir around a bit then add the vinegar followed by a ladle of stock.  Stir around and then add the stock bit by bit as you would with risotto although as it takes far longer, I would be a bit more gung ho and add a few at a time early on to avoid extreme boredom!

Once you get to about 35 mins, slow the addition of stock and taste the barley, cooking for longer if needed.  As I said I stopped at 40 minutes but I think 45 would have been a smidge better.  Some Orzotto recipes I have seen say it takes 20 minutes but mine was still too firm by then.

Once the barley is pretty much cooked, add in the peas and chicken and continue to cook until they are hot through.  Once hot, add the butter and cheese and beat in, taking off the heat.  Leave to stand for a few minutes then serve sprinkled with parsley if liked.

Make it Thrifty
This is already a thrifty recipe due to using barley rather than risotto rice.  I have heard since posting this though that soaking the barley overnight in cold water reduces the cooking time which will save energy.  I will give it a go and let you know!

As this not only uses leftover ingredients but also substitutes barley which is half the price of risotto rice, I've linked this up to credit crunch munch on fabfood4all and fuss free flavours.  I've added the blog hop on below if you want to join in!


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  3. What a coincidence - I cooked orzotto for my 3 and 5 year old for the first time this week. I tried a roasted butternut squash one which they both loved although they were both a bit surprised by the texture. My 5 year old described it as "it feels a bit funny"! Your chicken and pea one sounds delicious and I will definitely give it a go soon.

    1. I was talking to my husband today about how food trends come together. I remember last year, "Delicious" magazine, another food blog and myself all published an almost identical pavlova recipe within weeks of each other. I guess it's just weather and comfort food related that we're all thinking "must eat stodge!" I have to admit I liked it. I will have to try your butternut squash suggestion but I admit that originally I was going to make it with broad beans but I'd run out, hence the slightly boring pea option!

    2. There is an amazing yotam ottolenghi tomato and garlic orzotto recipe available online, but I think no-one would be able to stand within a foot of us after eating that much garlic! Peas sound a better option as my children insist of de-skinning every broad bean... It makes for a very long mealtime.

    3. I have to admit I was going to deskin. My son is spoiled!

  4. Brilliant looking recipe...I just had a pack of pearl barley delivered yesterday as I love it in soup. I'm veggie, but the rest of my family will love this, and I'm sure I could use vegetable stock and something in place of the chicken.
    Found you on the Weekend Blog Hop x

    1. Yep, give it a go with vegetable stock and a very strong cheddar. Butternut squash like L Frank suggests might be nice or maybe mushrooms?

  5. I didn't know that about barley and risotto... I will pin this and give it a try. Thanks for sharing your recipe on foodie friday.

  6. Your recipe is being featured today on foodie friday. Come by and get your featured button. I will be pinning and tweeting it this week too. Thanks again for sharing with us.

  7. I thought about doing a pearl barley risotto, too. Now you convinced me I really have to try. Yours looks really delicious. I guess then I can put into it whatever I like or rather have at hand.

    1. Absolutely just like any risotto. Just be aware it does end up with a firm texture but it is still delicious (and my toddler loved it).


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