Main Meals Recipes

Pumpkin and Sage Pearl Barley Risotto

All the autumn flavours in this alternative risotto using pumpkin and sage. Technically, I am using a squash, Crown Price squash to be precise, but any pumpkin or firm squash will work in its place.

While I am always a fan of leaving skins of fruits and vegetables for the increased fibre and reduced time for cooking, I have removed the skin from this particular pumpkin as it is quite tough and would certainly draw attention away from the dish itself. If I were to replace the pumpkin with butternut squash I would leave the skin on. This can be done to your own personal preference.

Speaking of fibre, swapping traditional risotto rice for quick-cook pearl barley not only saves you time of cooking and stirring for a traditional risotto, but it also increases the fibre content of the dish. Replacing the pearl barley with white risotto rice would reduce the fibre content down by 4g per serving! That’s almost half the total fibre content of the dish. Pearl barley also stays a bit more al dente, which means the overall dish has a lovely firm bite which I particularly enjoy.

If you need to adapt to a dairy free version, substitute the butter for olive oil, and either omit the cheese or use a dairy-free alternative or you can use nutritional yeast for a slight cheesy flavour.

Serves 2


  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 15ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
  • 100g quick cook pearl barley
  • 175ml dry white wine (optional to replace with water)
  • 10g stock powder
  • 20g parmesan
  • 250g pumpkin, skin peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
  • 5ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 20g butter
  • 10 large sage leaves (or 20 small leaves)


  • Gently fry the onion with 15ml olive oil over a low heat till transluscent and soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  • Bring 350ml water up to the boil in a saucepan and add the stock, keep on a low heat.
  • Add the pearl barley to the onions and toast for 2 minutes. Add the white wine and stir to help release some of the starch.
  • Take a separate large frying pan and add 5ml oil and 15g butter. Once the butter has melted add the pumpkin. Allow to brown slowly over a medium heat, stirring frequently.
  • When the wine is almost absorbed add a ladleful of hot stock, and repeat till almost all the stock has been absorbed. Check the pearly barley is cooked, but still with some bite. This should take 10-12 minutes.
  • Once the risotto is almost cooked, move the pumpkin to one side of the pan, add the remaining 5g of butter to the now clear side and fry the sage leaves for 2 minute till crisp and fragrant.
  • Remove the risotto from the heat and add half of the sage and pumpkin to the risotto with the parmesan and stir through.
  • Dish up and serve with the remaining pumpkin and sage over the top.

Per serving: 549kcal/ 22.1g fat/ 9.0g saturated fat/ 54.5g carbohydrates/ 8.5g fibre/ 12.9g protein

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