Courgette & pearl barley summer risotto

I didn’t have much food in the house but I rediscovered an old favourite in the cupboard, pearl barley. Normally I love this in a winter soup but I thought it could also work in a summer recipe. This recipe served two and made a lot of extra risotto which didn’t fit inside the squashes, so I served it alongside. I would do one courgette squash per person you’re serving, and serve the extra risotto alongside or save for later. 

We ate with bread and white wine. This meal was born out of necessity (hunger and few ingredients) but actually turned out really well, and you could probably throw in other vegetables you had kicking around too. It’s vegetarian but could easily be made vegan.



  • Two cute courgette squashes, inner flesh removed
  • 100 g pearl barley
  • 3 shallots (chopped finely)
  • 1 small mild red chili pepper (chopped finely)
  • 2 garlic cloves (chopped finely)
  • 2 – 3 Spring onions (chopped finely)
  • 50 g fresh or frozen peas
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Splash of white wine
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream (or creme fraiche)  optional, see recipe notes



1. Cut off the tops of the two courgette squashes and scrape out the flesh. Using a knife to get the shape and then a spoon to dig the flesh out worked well for me. Then cut the flesh into cubes. Also chop the courgette tops into cubes. I included the seeds in the risotto because I didn’t see any point in wasting them but you could remove if you preferred.

2. Fry the garlic and shallots in a glug of olive oil with the courgette flesh until tender in a heavy bottomed pan on a medium heat.

3. Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius for the baby squashes.

4. Add the pearl barley and chopped chili pepper to the pan and mix well with the vegetables.

5. Add a splash of white wine, the juice of a lemon, and then make up the rest of the liquid with water until everything in the pan is covered by liquid. Turn up the heat until it is simmering.

6. Brush the squashes with olive oil and cook in the pre-heated oven for around 20 minutes until cooked but still maintaining their shape and a little bit of bite. Once they are cooked you can remove from the oven and let cool a little bit. This should time well with the step 7 so everything is ready around the same time.

7. Around the same time as the squashes enter the oven, you should turn the pan with pearl barley and vegetables down to a low heat and let cook until the barley is tender. This took about 20 minutes in my case but may vary. Top up the pan with extra water throughout this process if neccesary. Add the peas and chopped spring onions after cooking for around 10 minutes.

8. To finish the risotto, turn the heat down low and gently stir in the two tablespoons of sour cream if using. Season and add salt and black pepper as neccesary.

9. Fill the baby squashes with the risotto and serve extra risotto on the side if you like.

Recipe Notes

You could top the risotto with parmesan etc, or a swirl of sour cream on top if you wanted. I had it as per the recipe and it was still good without.

 This would totally work as a vegan recipe, just be cautious that the chili doesn’t overpower everything. The sour cream served the purpose of muting the chili pepper heat a little; the dish tasted slightly too spicy but when I added the sour cream the heat became more of a background flavour. If you want to make it vegan you could simply add half a chili pepper instead and miss out the sour cream.

That said, if you want more chili then you could do as my boyfriend did and add a ton of Sriracha sauce to your risotto. This is delicious even though it always feels a bit sacriligious to add Sriracha to everything…


About Emily

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