A spring risotto and a pot to stir


I tend to enjoy cooking projects that facilitate day-dreaming. Tasks that involve a a rhythm of sorts, a lulling repetition that begs the mind to wander — chopping, kneading — though I think pot stirring is best since you don’t run the danger of chopping your fingers off. Perhaps it’s because I’m lazy at heart and I’m always looking for ways to viably do nothing. Staring out the window for thirty minutes with your hands in your pockets is one thing – but put a spoon in your hands and a pot before you and no one is going to ask any questions. I’m busy you can say if someone tries to disturb you and to add a little emphasis you can pull the spoon out of the pot and show it to them (in a slightly threatening manner even) and I guarantee you’ll be left alone. Really I think there is nothing better in the world than appearing as though you’re doing something when you’re not doing anything at all.


I call it my thinking time. It’s important – that time – because there isn’t enough time in modern life to think, at least for me.  I get a spare minute and I’m checking my email or doing something – always doing something – because clearly the whole world will fall to pieces if I’m not there to keep things moving, you see. So sometimes I need to put a spoon in my hands and stare off into space and stir. And do you know I have the most amazing things come into my mind? It’s sort of like letting all the mental dust settle and consolidate. Problems are solved. Ideas are hatched. In all honesty it’s probably the most productive thirty minutes of my day, and all I’m doing is stirring a pot.


Of course, even if I think of nothing at all there is still the benefit of dinner at the end of it, so it’s a win-win situation really. Especially when the pot I’m stirring is risotto, which is like macaroni and cheese grown up and moved to Paris, wearing black eye-liner and smoking cigarettes out of an extra long silver cigarette holder: sophisticated if you like. A few years back I discovered that other grains can be subbed in for the arborio rice like barley, millet — you name it really — and now there is nothing to  hold back my affections. This is a spring inspired risotto with barley and millet, asparagus, leeks and lots of lemon zest – as bright and uplifting as sunny spring day.

A spring risotto


  • 4 cups (1 litre) vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons (45g) butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of thyme, leaves only
  • 1 cup (200g) pearl barley
  • ½ cup (100g) millet
  • ½ cup (125ml) dry white wine
  • 2 - 3 leeks, sliced into half moons
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into chunks
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 oz (120g) crumbled chevre
  • 1 ½ oz (40g) grated Parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat the stock in a saucepan and keep at a low simmer over low heat.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and thyme and sweat for about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft.
  3. Add the barley and millet to the pot, cooking gently for a minute or so and then add the wine, letting it bubble away until the liquid is absorbed.
  4. Add one cup of the stock to the pan. Stir frequently until the liquid is almost completely absorbed and then add another cup of stock. Continue in this way, stirring often, only adding more stock when the mixture has absorbed nearly all the liquid.
  5. Once you've got about a cup of stock left to add to your grain mixture, heat the butter in another sauté pan over medium heat. Once it's nice and hot, add the leeks and stir for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the asparagus, and continue to cook for another 5 - 10 minutes, or until the asparagus is just lightly softened but still has a bite to it. The risotto and vegetables should then finish right about at the same time.
  6. Add the leeks and asparagus to the grain mixture along with the lemon juice and zest, chevre, Parmesan and a good pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir everything till combined and check for seasoning. Serve piping hot.


  1. Anonymous says:

    “there is nothing better in the world than appearing as though you’re doing something when you’re not doing anything at all”- love this!

  2. I have the ingredients in my kitchen. Will add a make believe Paris setting when adding to our dinner. 🙂

  3. I keep thinking of making a risotto with barley. You’ve made it all seem very appealing. I think it is time.

  4. This sounds absolutely delicious and best of all are the beautiful colours, a true spring dish.
    As a fellow fan of daydreaming I see I am going to have to experiment further with risotto!! 🙂

Speak Your Mind