Pearl Barley Risotto with Tofu Bacon & Brown Mushroom (Vegan)

  • 250g brown mushrooms
  • 250-300g firm tofu
  • 1 white onion diced
  • 1 carrot diced
  • 1 stick celery diced
  • 5 sprigs rosemary destemmed and diced
  • 2 tsp diced garlic
  • 200g pearl barley
  • 1 glass white wine
  • 5-6 cups veg stock
  • 6-8 leaves savoy cabbage destemmed and sliced

The days are shorter, nights longer, temperatures creeping towards freezing here in the North East. It’s about time for some proper tum filling, heart-warming comfort food, something Brits - especially us Northerners - are known for, so let's keep it local. OK yes risotto is Italian, yes tofu is Japanese, and yes the wine is French (if you can afford it) but barley and cabbage? Well British! This is a proper hearty, curl up on the sofa, flick on the TV, eat yourself happy kind of food.


Starting with the tofu, this is down to preference. Although don’t bother with that fancy silken stuff, it will just fall apart. We are looking for the firm stuff. You could herb crust it, marinade it in lemon but we chose to baconate it, using the same marinade from our coconut bacon. After pressing slice into strips, marinate and bake in a hot oven for 20-25 mins turning once and set aside.

With the tofu in the oven heat a heavy frying pan with oil and add your mushrooms. Two rules, don’t overcrowd the pan and don't go Gordon Ramsey and toss the pan about, leave it! Mushrooms are basically sponges full of water, so a hot pan, plenty of space and only moving the mushrooms occasionally means they will brown beautifully without turning into slimy slugs. Season well and set aside with the tofu.

Risotto time, boring bit first; pan choice. You are going to be stirring, a lot so pick a pan to contain that mess. A heavy bottomed non-stick with high sides is perfect but a casserole dish will do the trick. For practicality we have our stock sitting in a pan warming as well, cold is fine but having it warm will greatly speed things up. So pan on medium, oil in, chuck in the onions, carrots and celery or in fancy language a mirepoix into the pan cooking till golden. Next in with the pearl barley, rosemary and garlic. Stir well for 2 or 3 minutes until everything is coated with oil.

At this point in with the wine, stir (yes more stirring) till it’s absorbed by the barley. Then begin ladling the stock in the same way; one ladle of stock, stir till absorbed, one ladle of stock etc. Continue the process until the barely I completely cooked with just a little bite left, you may need more or less stock then stated. Now heat up the mushroom pan again with a little vegan margarine and add the mushrooms, tofu and savoy cabbage cooking on high for 2-3 mins before throwing everything into the barely.


Stir everything well (last stir I promise), check the seasoning, add a little knob of margarine if you fancy it and serve up a big bowl and enjoy.