I love Italian food but when it comes to cooking it at home, I have not been very experimental and end up making only pastas. And that too has now been put on hold because Devansh is not crazy about pastas. He doesn’t like their al dente texture and I can’t possibly overcook pasta to make it palatable to him. Overcooked pasta just doesn’t work for anyone. Then one day a light bulb popped out of my head with a picture of risotto in it. After all Devansh does like rice and creamy texture of risotto is just perfect for toddlers.
So I started scouting for recipes. Now typically risotto is made using Arborio rice but I came across one recipe which had used barley grains. I remember when I was a kid my folks used to drink and make me drink barley water (water in which barley grains are boiled) as it is good to flush out toxins. Barley provides so many health benefits, it is rightly termed as a superfood by experts. You can read more nutritional benefits of barley here. The only thing is barley grains are sort of thick and chewy, which I wasn’t sure would be a big hit with Devansh. He simply hates chewing food. Then I remembered I had seen barley dalia at this grocer from whom I pick up organic food.
Risotto is typically made by periodically adding vegetable or chicken stock/water to rice as it cooks. But while searching for risotto recipes, I came across one where the risotto was made in a pressure cooker. This was just perfect, because this alternative was less labor-intensive and would cook my risotto in less time. I thought spinach would complement the taste of barley well and it did.
First time I made this recipe, I forgot to set aside some grated cheese for garnishing and we had run out of cheese. So instead of going ahead with a boring photograph, I made it again after 2-3 days and this time I remembered to set aside some cheese. 🙂 Devansh liked it both the times. Despite it being bland, Kalpesh too liked it both the times. If you want to make this risotto for older kids and grownups, you can use whole grain barley instead of barley dalia. And you can add corn—American or baby corn, and/or mushrooms. You will of course need to increase the quantity of ingredients proportionately. Hope you all like this healthy risotto recipe.
Recipe of a toddler- and kid-friendly risotto made using barley dalia and spinach.
- 3 tbsp barley dalia (you can coarsely grind barley grains in a mixer if you can't find this dalia)
- 1 tbsp blanched and pureed spinach (To blanch the spinach, cook it in boiling water water for 2-3 minutes and then put it in cold water to prevent further cooking)
- 1-2 medium sized cloves of garlic (grated)
- Half medium sized onion (chopped)
- 1-2 freshly crushed peppercorns (or a pinch of black pepper powder)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter (I used salted butter)
- 1 cheese cube (grated)
- Salt to taste
- Wash barley dalia, and then soak it in some water so that it cooks a little faster.
- Heat a pressure cooker, lower the flame, and then add olive oil and butter. (I have a small pressure cooker so it's convenient to cook baby/toddler food in small quantities. If you don't have one, you can cook the risotto in a pan with a lid but you'll probably need to cook it for a longer time.)
- Add grated garlic and sauté it for half a minute, and then add chopped onion. (Don't let the garlic turn brown.)
- Sauté till the onion turns translucent and then add crushed peppercorns or pepper powder. (The onions shouldn't turn brown.) You can add more peppercorns if you are making this risotto for grownups.
- Drain water from barley dalia and then add it in the cooker.
- Sauté the barley dalia for about a minute and then add one cup of water and salt. You can add vegetable or chicken stock instead of water if you want. (If you are making this risotto for grownups using barley grains, the proportion of barley: water should be 1:2 to make al dente risotto.)
- Stir once and then close the pressure cooker with a lid, and on medium or high flame build up pressure.
- When the cooker reaches pressure (should take about a minute), lower the flame and allow the risotto to cook for 10 minutes on low flame.
- Turn off heat and allow the steam to settle till you are able to lift the whistle of the cooker without any resistance, and then take off the lid. (If you want to take off the lid immediately, you will need to cook the risotto for a longer time.)
- Turn on heat again, add blanched and pureed spinach, and cook for a minute or so. (At this stage, you can add more water if you want to make it more runny for your baby/toddler.)
- Turn off heat, add grated cheese, and mix it well with the risotto. (You can use Parmesan cheese if you want.)
- You can add some grated cheese on top for garnishing.