Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, then add the shallots and cook until just soft, about 2 minutes. Add the barley and fennel seeds (if using), 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until the barley is lightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, rosemary and wine and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are soft and the wine is absorbed, about 3 minutes.
Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer; cover, reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the barley is tender and almost all of the liquid is absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the ham, parmesan and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
Photograph by Antonis Achilleos
Be sure to use quick-cooking barley for this recipe.