For dinner last night I made this really quick and easy vegan mushroom risotto. There’s nothing like a warm, comforting bowl of goodness to cap off a tiring day! Mushrooms, especially when seasoned well, can be a great replacement for meat because of their chewy texture and how amenable they are to absorbing savoury flavours. Barley is also a great healthier alternative to the traditional arborio rice used in risotto because it’s high in fibre (meaning it’ll keep you fuller for longer) and is chock-full of vitamins and minerals. This is by no means a traditional method of making risotto, but a condensed version for us lazy/time-pressed home cooks!
To make the risotto (3 servings):
Heat some olive oil on medium-high heat in a pot. Add 2-3 cloves of minced garlic, and saute until fragrant, for about a minute or so. Add 1 pack of chopped mushrooms (300g). Add about ½ tbsp of soy sauce and saute the mushroom and garlic mix in that. I find that mushrooms and soy sauce are a match made in food heaven, so definitely give that a try to really replicate that savoury, umami flavour of meat. Once the mushrooms begin to brown and soften, add 1 cup of dried pearl barley. You can get pearl barley in most grocery stores. Be sure to rinse and drain the barley well before cooking it. Mix the barley in with the mushrooms, then add about 3-4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Dissolve 1 vegetable stock cube (break it up into smaller pieces) in the water, once it’s boiling.
When the water has come to a boil, reduce and allow it to simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until most of the water has been absorbed. Add 1 tbsp dried mixed Italian herbs and smoked paprika to taste. You will probably have to add more water to the barley as it cooks along, because you want it to get quite tender and meld with the other ingredients. You’ll know the barley is cooked when it has almost tripled in size, but still has a bit of bite to it. The starchiness from the barley will help thicken the sauce. The barley should now be coated in a rich, creamy sauce.
Once the barley risotto is cooked, remove from the heat and stir in 4 heaping tablespoons of nutritional yeast. I also added 1 heaping tablespoon of vegan “cream cheese” (I used the Sheesh Original “cream cheese”, which is a coconut oil derivative and tastes just like the real thing)- but this step is completely optional. I’ve made this risotto before without the vegan cream cheese, and it’s worked out perfectly well.
It’d be great to top it with some fresh basil and a bit of lemon juice too, but I didn’t have any. Instead, I served mine with some oven roasted cherry tomatoes, and the tartness married perfectly well with the salty, savoury risotto.
This recipe makes enough to feed 3 hungry people. I kept some of my leftovers in the fridge and it was even better the next day for lunch, because the flavours really had time to incorporate overnight.