Pearl Barley Spring Risotto with Asparagus Tips Recipe

This Risotto uses pearl barley instead of rice, which combined with oyster mushrooms, leeks, and garden peas – creates a velvety textured risotto. Paired with zesty lemon and fragrant thyme, and served with the fresh flavour of spring asparagus tips, this risotto marries subtle flavours to create a lovely May dish.

45 Mins Serves 2 to 4

Image: Nicola Wilkinson


  • 1 cup of pearl barley
  • 2 leeks (sliced in to rounds)
  • 100g oyster mushrooms (torn)
  • Zest of a lemon
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup of garden peas
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of thyme leaves
  • 200g asparagus tips
  • 1 stock cube (I used Kallo mushroom stock)
  • 700ml boiling water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Truffle oil


  1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan. Add the leeks and garlic and sauté for a few minutes
  2. Add the pearl barley and continue to stir over the heat for another few minutes.
  3. Now add the oyster mushrooms and stir gently for a couple more minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, mix your stock cube with 700ml of boiling water. Add a ladle of the stock to the pan and stir, allowing it to simmer. Add half of the thyme leaves and lemon zest. Once the liquid has been absorbed, add another ladle of stock and stir again then simmer till absorbed.
  5. Continue this process of adding the liquid one ladle at a time and allowing it to be absorbed before adding the next.
  6. With the final ladle of stock, add the juice of half a lemon and the garden peas. This whole process will take about 40 minutes, at the end of which your pearl barley will have absorbed the liquid and taken on a creamy texture like that of risotto rice. Season with salt and pepper as liked, cover the pan and remove from the heat.
  7. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Blanche your asparagus tips in the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Drain, and serve on top of the risotto, sprinkling the remaining lemon zest and thyme leaves on top of the whole dish for an extra burst of flavour.

To explore May’s seasonal bounty try using the following this month: asparagus, leeks, broad beans, rhubarb, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, new potatoes, radishes, salad onions, and spinach.

About this recipe

This recipe is courtesy of Nicola Wilkinson of Nicola Wilkinson Fitness


Nicola Wilkinson Fitness
Lewknor, Watlington OX49
07793 021 155 |

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