The barley will cook much more quickly if it’s soaked in water for several hours before making risotto. Even so, it will take about 50 minutes for the risotto to be ready — it’s a good dish to make when you’re going to be busy in the kitchen anyway.
1 cup (125 mL) dried morel mushrooms, divided
¼ cup (60 mL) butter
1 large onion, finely chopped (2 cups (480 mL))
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp (5 mL) juniper berries
1 Tbsp (15 mL) spruce tips
1 cup (250 mL) hulled barley
4½ cups (1.1 L) moose, bison or chicken stock
½ cup (125 mL) mushroom soaking liquid
Several hours before starting to cook, soak the barley: rinse, place it in a bowl and add water to cover.
Take half the dried morels and grind them into a powder using a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Soak the remaining morels in half a cup of boiling water.
Melt butter over medium heat in a large frying pan or a wide, shallow pot with a lid. Once the butter has stopped bubbling add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 7 minutes.
Turn the heat to medium low and stir in the garlic and mushroom powder
Grind juniper berries and spruce tips into powder and add to the pot.
Squeeze liquid from soaked morels, reserving liquid, chop morels roughly and sauté in the onion mixture for 2 minutes.
Drain barley, discarding the water, shake off excess moisture and add to the pot, stirring so barley is coated with onion and spices.
Pour two cups of stock and the morel soaking liquid into the pot, cover and bring to the boil. Simmer until the barley has absorbed all the liquid.
Add remaining liquid half a cup at a time, waiting until it has been fully absorbed before adding more. Add more liquid as necessary (try white wine!) to fully cook the barley — it should still be slightly chewy but not hard.
Makes about 3½ cups (830 mL), enough for four to six servings.