During our late August summer holidays there were a few projects that got away from me. I had every intention of keeping to a strict schedule of posting and completing projects this summer but our week of holidays at the farm ended up lasting much longer than intended due to so many circumstances. One of the projects that got away from me during my internet-free farm visit was the Mushrooms Canada appetizer contest. I had just arrived back home in Calgary and was checking through emails (yay internet!) when I was reminded of this contest and saw that the deadline was literally at midnight that same day! I absolutely love cooking with mushrooms and I thought that having my fellow food bloggers try my mushroom appetizer at the Food Bloggers of Canada conference in October would be really cool. I just couldn’t pass it up and I was in a bit of a creative state of mind because I hadn’t cooked in my kitchen for a while. I decided to go for it.
It didn’t take me too long to settle on a theme. I love how mushrooms and barley go together in a risotto and one of my family’s favourite appetizers is arancini. My original arancini recipe is not vegan because it includes smoked salmon and it has cheese in the risotto. I wanted to change up the recipe more by making a vegan version but I still wanted the arancini to have that great umami that a good Parmesan would provide. The addition of nutritional yeast flakes and very fine seaweed stalks is very common in vegan dishes as a umami element and in this case, they both went really nicely with the shiitake mushrooms.
Barley Arancini with Shiitake and Seaweed (Vegan)
1/3 cup finely diced onions
2 garlic cloves; minced
1/3 cup white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
1 cup pearled pot barley
1 cup shittake mushrooms (or 1/2 cup dried mushrooms; reconstituted and chopped)
3 cups mushroom stock
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes (optional)
3/4 cup fine seaweed stems; reconstituted in boiling water, then drained, and chopped (if desired)
salt and pepper
panko crumbs (or regular bread crumbs)
canola oil for frying
For the barley risotto:
Add two tablespoons of olive oil in a medium pot on medium to high heat. Heat up mushroom stock in a separate pan. Add finely diced onion and sauté until translucent before adding the minced garlic. Continue to sauté for another minute or two. Add pearled pot barley and stir, coating the grains in olive oil. If the contents of your pan are sticking, it may require additional olive oil. Pour in wine and reduce so that the alcohol has a chance to burn off. Add heated mushroom stock, a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until the liquid has absorbed into the barley in between each addition. In the meantime, finely dice the shiitake mushrooms and sauté in a separate pan until soft. Set aside. To tell if your barley is cooked, taste a grain and if you can chew it (but it still sticks to your teeth) it is finished. Stir in the mushrooms, nutritional yeast, and reconstituted seaweed stems. Allow to cool thoroughly.
After the barley risotto has cooled, roll into balls and coat with panko. If you find the mixture quite sticky it helps to have slightly damp hands. Deep fry in a large pot or deep fryer until golden.
I served mine with a dab of kewpie mayonnaise and a dash of furikake which is usually used to season rice.Mushrooms Canada announced the appetizer contest winner today and my Vegan Barley Arancini with Shiitake Mushrooms & Seaweed didn’t win but that’s okay because I’m really looking forward to trying the winning appetizer by The Busy Baker at the conference. Her Mushroom Crostini with Herbs and Garlic looks fabulous! If you want to see some of the other entries or get some ideas for cooking with mushrooms, the Mushrooms Canada website is a great place to start.