Leek and Mushroom

This couldn’t be easier, cheaper or more scrumptious. It’s a bowl of gently resisting grains, made creamy and unctuous with butter and gently sauteed onions & leeks, cooked with mushrooms and stock, and finished with more mushrooms. I defy anyone to balls this up. (Orzotto is barley risotto.)

I topped it with ricotta beaten with fresh chopped herbs – in this case, chives, thyme and flat leaf parsley. I also added two heaping tablespoons of cep powder (essentially finely pulverised mushrooms) from Selfridges Food Hall that my mother gave me in my Christmas stocking – yes, we are food-obsessed in our family home.

I’d never come across cep powder before. If I’d thought about it, I would have thought it expensive, but a generous tub was about £7, and it lasts for ages. It added an amazing depth of flavour and that rather fabulous brown colour to the dish. Of course it’s completely optional (nothing more annoying than recipes which INSIST that some esoteric ingredient is VITAL). (I’ve found it online at Amazon & here.)

Leek and Mushroom

I’m not going to give precise ingredients as I made enough for a small army – as opposed to just Emily & me, as I always do extra for my sister (I am meals on heels), and because barley is so forgiving you don’t have the same need for quantities that you do with proper risotto.

For approx four people:

I find what the French call a sauteuse best here – essentially a cross between a wide and very shallow saucepan and a high straight sided frying pan, so that the liquid evaporates more quickly, but a saucepan would be absolutely fine.  If you do use a sauteuse do lots of stirring as you’ll be surprised at how quickly it gobbles up liquid.

Basically: Put the kettle on to make up a stock cube (or heat up your homemade stock if you are a domestic goddess). Then you need to very gently fry two medium leeks and a yellow/white onion in a generous amount of olive oil for at least ten minutes. I also Microplaned in two fat gloves of garlic (& nearly half my thumb). It all needs to be soft, translucent and melting but not browned in any way.

Then add four cups of barley and a very generous slosh of white wine and stir it all around for a minute or two. Then cover the barley with hot stock. (I’m afraid I just pour over hot water and add a couple of spoons of Marigold Bouillon powder. Each to his own.) Leave it to cook. It doesn’t need continuous stirring like a risotto, just make sure there is  enough liquid always to just cover the barley.

Whilst it is cooking,  roughly chop (not thin slices)lots of chestnut ( but really any will do) mushrooms, adn gently fry them in lots of butter, a good pinch of Maldon salt and a splash of olive oil to stop it all burning. You want them over a low-ish heat so that the mushroom liquid doesn’t immediately evaporate.

When the mushrooms are just about cooked, pull to one side and pop a lid on them – this will make them leach more juices. After the risotto has been cooking for about 10-15 minutes, add half the mushrooms and as much of their cooking juices as possible to the barley and stir in. If you have cep powder add this now too. You’ll also need plenty of Maldon salt & freshly ground black pepper.

Whilst this is all cooking through, turn out a tub of Ricotta into a mixing bowl and stir in plenty of chopped fresh herbs. Any mixture of soft herbs like chives or flat leaf parsley or tarragon would be lovely. Add Maldon salt & freshly ground black pepper to the cheese mixture too.

Check your barley. It should look like it does above. If it is cooked but there’s too much liquid just whack up the heat and vigorously stir for a few minutes until the liquid has reduced. When it’s done beat in a large knob of butter with your wooden spoon.

Heat up the reserved mushrooms – they’ll be cold by now. Divide over the plates of barley when warmed through. Serve with a dollop of the cheese and a sprinkling of chopped chives/herbs as you choose.


This dish came about after a truly disappointing dish of farro with mushrooms at long-lauded vegetarian fine dining restaurant Greens in San Francisco, which not only cost $22 but tasted of pretty much nothing. So I thought it time to re-visit my barley risotto (orzotto) recipe to see if it really was rocket science to get a cheap delicious meal from pretty much the same ingredients.

And guess what? Greens should be thoroughly ashamed of their over-priced, lacklustre offer, which not only tasted boring but looked it too – as though it had been knocked up by a chef in a blindfold. (Bitter? Me? Yup – I’d waited 14 years since my first visit to SF to be able to afford to eat there so I felt particularly stabby at the utter waste of time three courses & glass of wine that cost me $76. Daylight bloody robbery. Average kitchen supper food at best).


Yellow onion
Chestnut mushrooms
Stock – I use Marigold Vegetable Bouillon but a choix
Maldon salt
Black pepper
Olive oil

For topping:
Ricotta cheese
Soft fresh herbs: any of tarragon, chives, thyme, flat leaf parsley etc

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I can vouch for the utter deliciousness of this! Happy memories of a rainy-day luncheon with dear LLG x


I only made your other version a night ago. I love the idea of the addition of ricotta. I think I might need to be a bit more heavy handed on the liquid side of things next time too. Mine looks a lot drier than yours does. Perhaps more wine! Thank you. I’ll be giving this one a go next week. I adore this type of food. Particularly given it’s cold and dark in Melbourne now. This is perfect. Meaghan x


Looks good! Speaking of a sauteuse, I once made risotto in a good heavy based stainless steel pan and also in a tin lined copper pan. The risotto in the copper pan was sooo much better: creamy little rice particles sticking to each other in just the right way.
I really need more copper pans in my life. Very expensive though.


Is orzotto the same as orzo? or smaller?


Looks de-lish, never heard of Orzotto before but will definitely give this a go as I love anything with pearl barley in it 🙂


YUM – this looks amazing! Never heard of Cep powder but that has gone straight onto my birthday list. Love orzotto anyway (somehow the barley is just more satisfying than rice) and a big slodge of cheese makes everything better.


Well, this looks good enough to make, cep powder or not (def. a mail order item here). Thanks for posting it!


Hello LLG:

Rather delishI think the real secret here is the magical cep powder. A bit tricky to get stateside, even in this foody town. Until it appears, I found a UK supplier who can arrange for shipping.

Sorry to hear about Greens. Lovely view, not much else. Gone zen to the point of losing touch. Perhaps next time try Millenium / SF. Very downtown, quite elegant and all the true veg’s rave about their highly innovative veg.cuisine. Even a frugal foodie menu with wine pairing special. A couple of cookbooks available too. Best! ~ Nicola SF


Sorry you had a bad experience at Greens; am currently visiting vegetarian friends in SF and we had brunch there on Sunday – it was delicious! Have heard that it is more famous for its brunches than dinner…


Meals on heels :o)

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