My Dad, Novak (more commonly known as “Roy”) would not be described as the world’s most enthusiastic cook, but he was the first to introduce me to barley. A master of all things BBQ, Dad usually leaves the kitchen cooking up to Mum, but every Winter he cooks up a delicious, hearty, wintery meat and vege soup with barley. I love the soft/crunchy/chewy texture and nutty taste of barley. In addition to adding it to roast vege dishes and soups, lately I’ve been looking for different ways to cook more with barley as a tasty alternative to rice.

Cooked barley has the equivalent carbohydrate level as cooked arborio (short grain) rice which is traditionally used in risotto, however it has about six times the amount of fibre, three times the amount of calcium and twice as much iron which makes it a nutrient-rich alternative.

The following recipe includes making your own quick vege stock, but if you’re short on time you can use stock from a box (but try to find one that is as natural as possible, and low in salt and sugar). I love eating this with simple Thai chicken meatballs, but it’s tasty and interesting enough to keep alone as a rich vegetarian dish.

Simple vege stock (makes about a litre)


  • A couple of whole carrots, roughly chopped
  • A stick of celery (or a teaspoon of dried celery seeds)
  • 1 onion (skin on) roughly chopped
  • 3 clove of garlic, crushed with skin on
  • 1 thumb of fresh ginger, roughly sliced
  • 1 stick of cinnamon, bashed
  • 1 star anise
  • A handful of parsley including stalks
  • 1 cob of corn (husk removed)
  • 3 fresh / 1 dried bay leaves
  • 6 whole peppercorns
  • 2 litres of water


  1. Start by soaking your barley (see first step on ingredients, below)
  2. Put all ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan and slowly bring it to a simmer.
  3. Skim off the foam occasionally as it floats on top.
  4. Leave it to simmer with the lid off for about an hour until it’s reduced down by half.
  5. Pass the stock through a sieve, save the corn for another meal and discard the rest.
  6. Leave to cool.

Pumpkin and carrot barley ‘risotto’


  • 1 cup pearl barley, covered with water to soak for at least 1 hour
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • About 200g pumpkin (any kind) with skin on diced into small cubes
  • About 200g carrots with skin on, diced into small cubes
  • 4 sage leaves, stacked and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • Stock (all that you made as per above – about a litre)
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp butter (preferably grass fed) or ghee
  • 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley chopped (for garnishing)


  1. Heat olive oil in a fry pan over medium heat
  2. Add onions and cook until soft. Then add garlic and cook for another minute
  3. Add the pumpkin, carrots and sage leaves, and fry until onion is brown. Add about half a teaspoon of salt.
  4. Add the drained barley and stir well to coat the barley in oil
  5. Add the wine, stir to combine everything until the wine has cooked off.
  6. Add your stock, cover and allow to simmer for approximately 45 minutes.
  7. Remove the lid and if there is still some liquid, keep cooking with the lid off until all the stock has been absorbed.
  8. Taste to check that the barley is soft and add salt and cracked pepper to taste.
  9. Remove from the heat, add in the butter/ghee and parmesan cheese, and stir through so the mixture starts to thicken
  10. Scatter with chopped parsley to serve.

pumpkin and carrot barley risotto