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Pearl Barley Risotto with Leek, Broccoli and Basil

This Overcoming MS friendly dish uses wholegrain pearl barley instead of white rice and is bursting with flavour from the vegetables. The delicious savoury topping makes a great alternative to parmesan cheese.

Time 40 minutes, plus overnight soaking
Skill Level Easy

Ingredients List


Serves 4
  • 200 g pearl barley , wholegrain
  • 250 g broccoli
  • 1 litre vegetable stock , made from water used to cook broccoli and low salt vegetable bouillon
  • 2 leeks , sliced thinly and washed well
  • 4 garlic cloves , crushed
  • large bunch of basil
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon , grated zest and 2 tbsp of the juice
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • For the walnut topping (optional):
  • 100 g walnuts
  • 20 g nutritional yeast
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp garlic powder


  1. Soak the pearl barley in plenty of water overnight. 
  2. Divide the broccoli into small florets.  Cook in lightly salted simmering water for 5 minutes, or until just cooked.  Drain, reserving the cooking water, and keep the broccoli to one side.  Make up the cooking water to 1 litre and add the vegetable bouillon.
  3. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan sauté the leeks with a little water until soft, stirring frequently so that the leek doesn’t brown.  Add the garlic for the last few minutes.
  4. Remove half the leeks and reserve.  Drain the barley and add to the pan along with the vegetable stock.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the barley is cooked but still has a bit of a bite.  If there is still quite a lot of liquid in the pan take off the lid and cook for a bit longer to reduce the liquid.
  5. Meanwhile, add the olive oil, basil, lemon zest and juice, a good pinch of salt and pepper and 3-6 tbsp of water to the leeks and blend to a paste with the stick blender.
  6. Make the walnut topping by adding all the ingredients to a food processor and pulsing to a fine crumb.  Alternatively, finely chop the walnuts then mix in the rest of the ingredients.
  7. When the barley is cooked add the leek and basil paste and the reserved broccoli to the pan and stir through gently to incorporate and heat through.  Check and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  8. Serve in warmed bowls, sprinkled with the walnut topping.


  1. To freeze, cool to room temperature and transfer to freezer containers in batches.  Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and warm gently in a pan until piping hot, adding a little water to loosen if necessary.