Sunday, September 20, 2009

North African Barley Risotto with Merguez Flavored Seitan Sausages

The weather today was cool here. I don’t think we got above 73 degrees. When the weather is cool I like to make warm hearty meals. Risotto has been a family favorite for a long time, but now I make it with barley since it is more nutritious. Barley risotto does take twice as long as rice, but I think the extra fiber and antioxidants are worth the time.

This dish needs the crispy peppers and almonds added at the end for textural contrast. The flavor is reasonably subtle, but complex. Be careful not to add too much saffron, as it can get bitter like turmeric. Next time I may double the raisins and almonds in this recipe. I had expected this to make 6 servings, but in was so filling that we all ate less than I expected.

North African Barley Risotto with Merguez Flavored Seitan Sausages
Serves 8


½ tablespoon canola oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and finely minced
2 cups of pearled barley
½ cup pinot grigio (or other dry white wine)
10 - 12 cups of boiling water, or light vegetable stock
1 teaspoon of kosher salt, added slowly according to the recipe
3 merguez flavored seitan sausages, sliced in half lengthwise and then into ¼ inch half moons
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 pinches saffron threads
¼ cup golden raisins
1 lemon, zested and juiced
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup fresh cilantro, finely minced (or you could use mint, or a combination of the two)
1 red bell pepper, finely minced
1 yellow bell pepper, finely minced


Sauté the onion in the canola oil until soft, but not brown. Add the barley and cook for a few minutes to toast. Add the white wine and stir to deglaze the pan. When the water has evaporated add the water or vegetable stock 1 or 2 cups at a time and stir to begin developing the creaminess. Add the seitan sausages, cumin, coriander, saffron, raisins and lemon zest after the first addition of water. When the water is mostly absorbed add more water 1 or 2 cups at a time. Continue to stir after each addition of liquid. Taste the liquid in the risotto pan after each liquid addition and add a little salt if necessary. I find if salt is added a little bit at the time it seems to go through the risotto more completely. When 2/3’s of the water has been absorbed check the barley to see if the texture is soft enough. The entire cooking process will probably take 45 minutes. Barley risotto is much more time consuming than Arborio rice prepared in the risotto style.

Add the lemon juice when the risotto has reached the right consistency. I think cooking lemon can turn it bitter so I like to add it once the heat is turned off, when possible. You can also add the almonds, cilantro, and peppers at this time.

Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 324.41
Calories From Fat (15%) - 48.54

Total Fat - 5.66g
Saturated Fat - 0.55g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 306.04mg
Potassium - 378.55mg
Total Carbohydrates - 51.62g
Fiber - 10.14g
Sugar - 5.05g
Protein - 17.08g


I was surprised how filling this dish turned out to be. The crispy raw bell peppers and crunchy almonds add a lot to this dish. If everyone at your house likes mint that would be great in this dish. We had a mint hater at dinner tonight so I had to use cilantro exclusively.


  1. Michelle,

    I love mint, but my father picks it out of things .... since he is 80, and was coming to dinner I left it out. However, I will say I missed the mint. Oh well, it was for a good cause. At least I know my elderly parents each two healthy meals a week.



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