Roasted Butternut Squash Barley Risotto with Toasted Pine Nuts recipe was actually meant to be just a regular Arborio rice risotto (with squash and bacon at first). I cooked it many times and meant to put on Garlic Matters many times, but as it happens life happened and we all know how that works.
Last weekend, for example (Saturday night), we had pretty violent weather in Guernsey with wind speeds as high as 84 miles per hour. Luckily, no one got hurt and the only aftermath was as expected: a few fallen trees, sheds that took off and left their contents in a mess on the ground and lots of debris all around. The following day, which I had assigned to working on improving Garlic Matters, I spend most of the afternoon clearing out our driveway and back garden not realising that another storm was due on Monday night… oh well, never mind. At least I spent some time outside, in fresh air, sorted plants in pots out and cut them back ready for the winter to come.
Later that day I drove down to our local supermarket to pick up some groceries for the following week. I wasn’t planning on cooking that evening, but finding a bag of barley on a supermarket shelve really re-energised me and inspired to experiment.
I haven’t had barley for years, so when it winked at me amongst bags of colourful beans I grabbed it and navigated straight back to the veggie aisle to pick something to cook it with. So exciting! It was a bit like seeing an old friend!
I know, it’s only barely, but it is also a grain I used to eat as a child relatively often and really enjoyed it.
I remember old, traditional Polish barley soup recipe – true, health boosting barley elixir! Every Polish granny will tell you that you should have a bowl of it when you’re a bit under the weather, because it will make you feel better :), and it also works for that flu or cold that crept in on you.
Roasted Butternut Squash Barley Risotto with Toasted Pine Nuts – Perfect Autumn Dinner Recipe.
I cooked Roasted Butternut Squash Barley Risotto with Toasted Pine Nuts for dinner that evening to celebrate my find and had a big bowl of it while watching another amazing episode of Planet Earth 2. It was a good day and a really delicious evening in.
It was so lovely to rediscover a flavour, a memory which has almost completely faded away, and taste I almost forgot to crave. Chewy, al dente pasta like puffed up barley grains taste so much better than a regular risotto rice! Barley has got an earthiness and sweetness to it, which I can’t think of anything that it could compare to. Mixed with sweet squash and pine nuts – just lovely! Please try it and let me know your thoughts.
- 1 cup (about 220g) dry barley
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 celery stick, finely chopped
- 4 fresh, smoked garlic cloves (unsmoked, fresh garlic will do just fine instead), chopped
- 150 ml dry, white wine
- 1 large squash (about 1.5lb) or 2 smaller ones - you’ll need about 300g roasted squash flesh only
- 800ml vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped (½ teaspoon dry thyme)
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 150g pine nuts
- Few glugs of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- Preheat oven to 180C and line large, shallow baking tray with aluminium foil.
- Halve your unpeeled squash and then quarter each halve. Scoop the seeds and discard.
- Arrange pieces of squash on the baking tray, brush the exposed flesh with olive oil and bake for about 40 minutes or until the flesh softened enough so you can scoop it out of the skin. Discard skin and reserve the flesh.
- In a deep and wide pan, heat some of the oil and cook onions, celery and garlic together until onions softened. Add thyme, turmeric and barley to the pan, mix it all well and let it toast for a few minutes before adding the wine. Keep mixing your barley with onions until most of the wine evaporates.
- Now, ladle by ladle, start adding the stock, stir your barley often as this will help with releasing starch, which will make your risotto lovely and creamy. Don’t rush things and allow the barley to absorb the stock before adding more.
- Heat up a small dry pan, add pine nuts in and let them toast for a few minutes while moving the nuts in a pan very often. This should only take 3-4 minutes, you don’t want your the pine nuts to blacken, only deep golden brown.
- When most of the stock is absorbed, add butter, the mushy squash, toasted pine nuts and combine all before pouring the rest of the stock in. Stir Parmesan in, adjust seasoning with salt & pepper to your liking and serve immediately.