Italian Recipes

Kale, Walnut and Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto

Kale, Walnut and Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto Recipe

Risotto is a dish that adapts well to every season. Depending on what ingredients you use to flavour yours it can be light and delicate (Leek and Pea Risotto), or rich and decadent (Red Pepper and Goats Cheese Risotto). However, flavours are not the only way in which you can influence the seasonality of a dish. Though traditionally made with short, fat rice, it is possible to incorporate other grains or even pasta into a risotto. This recipe for Kale, Walnut and Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto runs with that idea, taking a step closer to winter perfection.

Pearl barley is a fantastically comforting cereal grain, with a pleasantly dense texture. It is generally used as a thickener in stew and is a particularly effective bulker. These qualities translate perfectly to risotto, giving each bite a similar yet meatier consistency than that afforded by rice. It is these characteristics that make pearl barley such a good replacement for rice, which is a little more delicate.

Kale, Walnut and Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto Recipe

An impressively hardy brassica, kale is now coming into season and has increased vastly in popularity in recent years. Used in the right way – with very little cooking – kale can be every bit as delicious as Brussels sprouts or cabbage. Indeed, it is best stirred into stews or risotto right at the end of the cooking process as this preserves its crunchy texture and sweet flavour. However, if you’re looking for a slightly different way to use this vegetable, why not try using it as a base for pesto, using my Spinach, Feta and Walnut Pesto as a guide.

Kale, Walnut and Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto

Serves 4


• 1 onion, finely chopped

• 2 cloves of garlic, sliced

• 2 tbsp olive oil

• 300g pearl barley, rinsed

• 1.5 litres chicken stock

• 50g parmesan cheese

• 70g walnuts,broken

• 50g butter

• 4 handfuls of sliced fresh kale, green or purple

• the juice of half a lemon

• salt

• pepper


1. Gently fry your onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Stir through your rinsed pearl barley and cook for 2 minutes. Toast your walnuts until browned.

2. Add the chicken stock one ladle-full at a time, waiting for each to be incorporated before adding the next. Once the barley is plump and cooked through stop adding the stock and remove the risotto from the heat.

3. Stir the cheese, butter and walnuts through your cooked risotto, pop the lid on and set aside to sit for 3-4 minutes.

4. Finally, stir through the kale, season to taste and drizzle with fresh lemon juice before serving.

Kale, Walnut and Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto Recipe Kale, Walnut and Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto Recipe

Cost: Pearl barley is a relatively cost-effective ingredient and should set you back less than £1/500g. Kale is in season at the moment and should be really crisp and fresh – a large bag should also cost no more than £1. As such, this meal for four can be produced for around £2.50.

38 replies on “Kale, Walnut and Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto”

Usually soak pearl barley prior to using, imagine it’s not required in using it in risotto, must try this, warming, filling, comfort food, yet fresh with lemon & kale, love sprouts so must add these to dish. Nice recipe, makes a change from rice & I do enjoy a good risotto!
Thank-you, Odelle Smith.

[…] What Kristine said is half-true. I’ve never been as fond of cooking as she or her brothers, who talk about food and seem to relish the chance to get in the kitchen and cook new things the way I relish time to write. But once I’d made the resolution and carried out the first of the recipes, she understood I was serious, and knew that if I was serious, I would carry through. So she started to load my account on the computer with digital cookbooks. Then on Friday, she sent me this link, 31 Easy Dinners With No Meat to Make in 2015, and because I hadn’t yet picked what I planned to make, I opened it up and scrambled to find something for which we had ingredients in our refrigerator and pantry. I was at work, and I’m in the midst of training new employees and helping transition journals from our New York office to the Philadelphia one and lots of stuff that would bore you to talk about here but that keeps me running about like the proverbial chicken without a head, so I scrolled down the list and settled on the first that really caught my eye: Kale, Walnut, Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto. […]

This is a seriously good recipe. My 1 year old loves it too. I add oven roasted cubes of Pumpkin for him too. So good!

Oh, what a satisfying dish. Just cooked it and ate it. Thank you for this wonderful recipe! Except that I feel like a nap now…! And a nice glass of white wine was missing….Looking forward to enjoy the leftovers tomorrow.

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