Black barley is a terrific find, it is nutty and dark in flavour and cooks easily in 35 – 45 minutes. I came across it at Goodies and Grains in Adelaide Central Market while I was stocking up with a few items. It is an African barley just becoming available more locally. It is excellent in soups, salads, vegetarian “stews” (let’s call it a ragout) like our recipe today, and even with tostadas and such like. As a base for other ingredients, it is excellent – try Black Barley with this Charred Okra dish.
Today we are using it to replace pearl barley (you can do that in any recipe). Ottolenghi has a recipe for Barley and Mushrooms in his book Plenty. We first made this around 2011, when my daughter and her family came back from London. There was much celebration. Barley and mushroom is a soothing combination – it is well known in Italy where a type of risotto, orzotto, is made from barley and mushrooms. The delight of the dish is mainly a textural thing, with the barley both gently breaking and enhancing the mushroomy gloopiness. This recipe uses 3 types of mushrooms, and today we used porcini, shiitake and pearl mushrooms, as I had pearl mushrooms left over from making a Soba Noodle and Mushroom dish.
Ottolenghi’s recipe also has some roti-like flatbreads made from wholewheat flour and mixed with yoghurt. These are rolled out and cooked on a tawa, flat griddle or frying pan. They are super easy to make and go with any dish similar to this one. You can also use any Mexican or Middle Eastern flatbread to compliment the barley if you are out of time to make your own. Or some frozen roti from your Indian Grocery.
It is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.
It is a very wintery dish – perfect for brisk Autumn days through to Winter.
Browse our Black Barley recipes, all of our Barley dishes and our Mushroom recipes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through his Plenty More book. Or explore our Early Autumn dishes.
Black Barley with Mushrooms and Roti-Style Yoghurt Flatbreads
140g wholemeal flour
1.5 tspn baking powder
0.5 tspn sea salt
140g unsweetened Greek or Indian yoghurt
3 Tblspn chopped fresh coriander, parsley or dill
4 Tblspn ghee or butter (or a mixture of butter and vegetable oil)
mushrooms and barley
70g black barley or pearl barley
20g dried porcini mushrooms
400g mixed shiitake, pearl mushrooms and/or white or brown mushrooms, cleaned and halved
2 Tblspn olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 sprigs fresh thyme
125 ml white wine or use verjuice with a little lemon juice
2 Tblspn chopped parsley, plus extra
0.5 Tblspn preserved lemon skin, chopped, plus 1 Tblspn lemon juice
6 Tblspn thick Greek or Indian unsweetened yoghurt
sea salt and black pepper
Start with the flatbread. Put everything except the butter in a bowl, and mix with your hands to form a dry dough (add flour if needed). Knead for a minute, until smooth, wrap in clingfilm and chill for an hour.
Simmer the barley in plenty of water until tender but with a bite. For black barley this will be 35 – 45 minutes, for pearl barley it could be 50-70 minutes. When it is cooked, drain the barley and set aside.
Put the porcini in a bowl with 120ml of lukewarm water and leave to soak.
Put the fresh mushrooms in a hot pan with the oil, half the butter, garlic and thyme, and sauté, stirring occasionally, for four minutes. Add the wine or verjuice and let it bubble away for five minutes, then add the porcini and soaking liquid, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining ghee or butter, parsley, lemon and barley. Season to taste.
This can be left and reheated when ready to serve.
Now make the flatbreads. Divide the dough into six. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten with a rolling pin into round discs about 2mm thick. Melt ghee, or some butter with oil, on a tawa, flat griddle or nonstick pan and fry the flatbreads, one at a time, on medium heat for two minutes a side, until golden brown. Add ghee or butter as required.
Fold each flatbread into two or four, and top with the barley, a spoonful of yoghurt and a sprinkle of parsley.
recipe notes and additions
I omit the yoghurt in Winter, but it is good as a cooling touch in Summer.
Black Barley with its inky taste makes beautiful salads too, like this one I made from pantry and garden ingredients during COVID-19 (2020). Black Barley mixed with some home made peach chutney, soft oven dried tomatoes, purslane from the garden, and garden herbs. A little olive oil and the tiniest bit of something acid (taste first as purslane is a little sour) – lemon or lime, preserved lemon, or rice vinegar.