This is a simple dish that you can dress up as you like. I add a splash of sherry and a dollop of créme fraîche to mine, but these are optional. You could skip the cheese and butter to make it vegan (maybe add a sprinkle of horseradish or sumac to deepen the flavor)? Of course, you could always add more cheese and butter too. —Lily Hughes
Dice onion and garlic. Heat butter in a large sauce pan on a medium high heat, add onion, then garlic. Sauté and add thyme leaves, paprika, coriander, chili flakes, oregano, and salt & pepper.
Add pearl barley and stir everything together. Deglaze the pan with sherry and allow alcohol to burn off. Add tomatoes (then rinse the can with some water and add that too). Add vegetable stock then reduce heat and simmer until the barley is cooked through (approx. 30 minutes). Stir constantly to stop the risotto sticking to the pan.
Once cooked, remove from heat. Add lemon zest and juice, créme fraîche, and most of the parmesan. Taste and adjust seasoning. Spoon the risotto into bowls, garnish with a couple of thyme leaves and sprinkle with the rest of the parmesan.