20 March 2015

Lemon Asparagus Pearl Barley Risotto

Serves: 2
Time: 20-25 mins 

Lemon Asparagus Pearl Barley Risotto with Baby Courgettes
All winter I have been looking forward to asparagus season and it is finally upon us! Despite being available all year round, when in season vegetables not only taste better but have a higher nutritional content and are also cheaper, making eating seasonally a great thing to do. My favourite way to eat asparagus is lightly coated in a drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice & fresh cracked black pepper; for this recipe i have incorporated that with a twist on the classic risotto - made with pearl barley.
Lemon Asparagus Pearl Barley Risotto with Baby Courgettes
 I've said before that other grains are so heavily underrated and we really do need to start using them, especially when pearl barley is packed with essential vitamins and minerals, high in protein & fibre and also has a low GI meaning it won't cause your blood sugar levels to spike - helping to keep you full for longer. The slightly nutty flavour of the pearl barley perfectly compliments the fresh spring veg to produce a beautiful fresh flavour that will instantly welcome you to spring.
Lemon Asparagus Pearl Barley Risotto with Baby Courgettes
 I used baby courgettes in this dish as they have a sweeter flavour than the larger ones and therefore work with the lemon juice & do not taste bitter. Courgettes are considered a summer vegetable, however the baby ones due to being harvested earlier have an earlier season and are therefore just coming into stores. I also used quick cook pearl barley in this recipe which I purchased from Tesco - if you can't get hold of this then regular pearl barley is fine but it will significantly increase the cooking time and take between 45-60 mins. If you like your barley firmer then cook for a shorter amount of time - the longer you cook it the softer it will get. 

Lemon Asparagus Pearl Barley Risotto with Baby Courgettes

You'll need:

  • Chopping board
  • Knife
  • Large frying pan
  • Griddle Pan
  • Bowl
  • Fine Grater


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup quick cook Pearl Barley
  • 1/2 veggie stock pot
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup grated vegan cheese (optional)
  • Handful fresh Parsley (optional)
  • Black pepper

  • 15-20 fine asparagus
  • 5 baby courgettes
  • Zest & juice 1/2 lemon (unwaxed)
  • Pinch salt & black pepper


  1. Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic, add to the frying pan on a medium heat with a tbsp olive oil and fry for 2-3 mins. Add the pearl barley & stir around for 20 seconds before adding the stock, water, wine and a pinch of black pepper. When it reaches a boil reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 15 mins or until the liquid has mostly absorbed, stirring every few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, to prepare the asparagus take one piece hold at both ends and bend slightly - where it breaks off is the end of the "woody" bit, use this as a guide and chop the other asparagus pieces at this point, discarding the woody ends and keeping the tips. Chop the asparagus pieces into 3, keeping the flowery tips in tact. Then chop the ends off the baby courgettes and thinly slice.
  3. Grate the lemon zest into a bowl and squeeze in the lemon juice, add a pinch of salt and pepper before adding the veg into the bowl - thoroughly coating all the pieces. Heat up a griddle pan onto a medium heat, add the asparagus & courgettes and grill for about 5 mins, keeping an eye on the veg and turning to ensure they don't brown too much. 
  4. When most of the liquid has absorbed into the barley, add the vegan cheese and parsley, turn off the heat and stir through the veg. The pan should not be completely dry but you also don't wan't there to be too much liquid left.
  5. Serve up and enjoy the beautiful taste of spring! Cassidy xx
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Lemon Asparagus Pearl Barley Risotto with Baby Courgettes