We’ve never had barley as a sweet dish before (apart from this mixed grain/lentil congee), so when I saw this Barley Pudding recipe from The Guardian, I was intrigued. It also hit the spot with rhubarb which is shaping up to be the fruit of the season in our kitchen.
I made some adjustments to the original, as is my want. The original used A LOT of sugar, and I cut it by almost a third. That is plenty for our tastes, but feel free to add more if you prefer. Also I used far less water than indicated, and it was enough, but do keep a careful eye on the barley and the rhubarb as they cook, to make sure there is enough liquid.
Sweet Barley with Ginger Poached Rhubarb
1 litre water
150g caster sugar + 15g more for the cream
150g pearl barley
1 vanilla pod, split in half
150g double cream, whipped into soft peaks
1 litre water
200g palm sugar
2 tspn ginger powder
juice of 1 lemon
4 sticks of rhubarb (around 300g), chopped into 2cm pieces
To cook the barley: Put the water, sugar, barley and vanilla pod in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Once boiling turn to a simmer and cook until the barley is soft (40 minutes–1 hour). Keep an eye on the barley as it cooks, and add more water if needed.
Once the barley is cooked, strain through a sieve, retaining the barley water. Discard the vanilla pod. Leave the barley to cool, then refrigerate. Keep the barley water for other uses – it makes an excellent drink with a little lemon or lime juice and a touch of tonic water.
Whip the remaining 15g of sugar into the cream to form soft peaks. Once the barley is cold, fold the whipped cream into the barley to form a pudding consistency. Cover and refrigerate until it’s time to serve.
To cook the rhubarb: Put water, sugar, ginger powder and lemon juice in a pan over a medium heat. Once boiling, turn the heat to low heat and gently poach the rhubarb until tender. Strain the rhubarb and leave to cool a little, reserving the cooking syrup. The rhubarb can be used slightly warm, at room temperature or chilled.
To serve, top a few large spoonfuls of the barley mix with chunks of rhubarb and a drizzle of the syrup.
recipe notes and alternatives
I have used a lot less sugar, almost 1/3 of the amount in the original recipe. If you prefer more sweetness, add more sugar.
Apples are fabulous with the barley, also Baked Strawberries. The barley is also wonderful with a chunky fruit jam stirred through and topped with passionfruit.
Real vanilla essence can be used in place of a vanilla bean. Please look for a natural essence, though, without artificial flavours.