Who does not love a grain pilaf? – and we have a number of recipes. Each one is a variation on a theme. I love this recipe because it has a smoky flavour from the toasting of the barley and the spices. It is nutty and very delicious. Yoghurt is a common accompaniment, and today we combine tahini with it for a perfect dressing.
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.
For barley lovers, a beautiful salad. Such a simple salad to make, if you are comfortable with soaking and cooking the barley and cannellini beans. To make it even easier, canned beans can be used. Just warm them through before mixing with the barley.
Similar recipes include Toasted Barley and Pistachio Pilaf, Broccolini Risotto, Summery Grain or Lentil Salad, Barley with Pistachios and Raisins, Grain and Grape Salad, and Buckwheat and Broccolini Salad.
In the midst of Autumn or Winter, on a foggy, drizzling day, there is nothing more perfect that a large bowl of Vegetable Soup. And if it has barley in it – even better.
Similar recipes include Turnips and Onions, Celeriac Soup with Mustard, Toppings for Soups, Barley and Lentils with Mushrooms, Minestrone with Pesto, Italian Barley and Vegetable Soup, and Thirteen Treasure Happiness Soup.
We are all working to stay happy, healthy and somewhat sane during this time. It is the middle of the coronavirus pandemic as I write this draft. We are social-distancing, a new word, and we s-d even in our own homes. It is a scary time that is changing the world in many large and small ways. Oh, so many countries have been devastated with so many deaths, my heart is broken for you. Who knows what is to come ….
As it happens, I happen to have a couple of flat mushrooms in the fridge, barley in the pantry and feta from the Afghan shop. There is parsley and thyme in the garden, so this seems to be the perfect use for the mushrooms. I also have wine! It is a rare occurrence, but is perfect for this dish. The mushrooms are slowly braised in the oven in wine, stock, butter and thyme, to become achingly soft, fragrant and highly flavoursome. The stuffing is barley, feta, preserved lemon, garlic and herbs. It is an unusual stuffing for mushrooms, but one that is divine and perfect against the soft ‘shrooms. They mended my heart a little, just for a moment.
This is an Ottolenghi recipe from his book Ottolenghi. I serendipitously came across it while browsing last evening. We are always free to massage his recipes into a shape that fits what we have at hand, but this time it needed little alteration. I toyed with the idea of using goat cheese for feta, and it would have worked, but used feta instead. I did chop up the mushroom stems and add them to the barley as it cooked. No waste, no want, always my mantra. This recipe doesn’t appear to be on the Guardian website, so you will have to check his books for the original.
Similar recipes include Toasted Barley and Pistachio Pilaf, Sweet Barley and Ginger Poached Rhubarb, Roasted Mushrooms with Burrata, Pan Fried Mushrooms in Butter, Roasted Mushrooms and Garlic, Black Barley with Mushrooms, and Mushrooms in Terracotta.
This is a versatile Summer salad. The base can be a grain, dried bean, lentil or even tiny pasta. Indeed you can mix them as well. Use couscous, barley, freekeh, burghul, Israeli couscous, small pasta, horse gram, quinoa, rice, puy lentils, matki beans, butter beans or haricot beans. This is definitely a salad that helps you clean out your pantry – use any grain, lentil or bean that you have available. Today I am using barley mixed with a little tiny pasta.
Just a note about the salad dressing. It uses a curry powder. Either use a good quality one or make your own. My Mother used to make a Curried Rice Salad, and we loved it. This is my take on that salad. Today I have used barley as a base, with a little tiny tubular pasta. It is great alongside an Halloumi Burger and steamed sweetcorn!
You couldn’t get a more Wintery dish than this. Barley and Brown Lentils with Mushrooms and Crispy Fried Onions. And today is quite warm! What am I thinking? Haha, still, it is great comfort food.
For this dish I have used horse gram lentils, a favourite lentil from India, but you can use any brown or dark lentil. The recipe, one of Ottolenghi’s, specifies pot barley and you should use that if it is available. Here it has gone out of fashion in recent times and I could not find any for love or money. So I used pearl barley – almost as good in my opinion. Pot barley is the love of the UK, where it is readily available.
As mentioned, this is a recipe from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More. Note that we always feel free to use whatever is in our garden, pantry, fridge or kitchen bench in his dishes. For this one, the barley is the only substitute we have made. However if you wish to see his original recipe check his books or his Guardian column.
What is Pot Barley
Whole (as opposed to rolled or ground) barley comes three ways: as a whole grain, as pot barley or as pearl barley. The difference between them is the degree to which their tough outer shell has been removed. Pot, or Scotch, barley has its outer casing hulled. Pearl barley also has it removed, and is then polished clean. The hull is left on for whole grain, which gives it an inherent nuttiness and bite that allows it to stand more alone in a dish.
Pot barley takes longer to cook than pearl, but an overnight soak in water will speed things along. It’s a robust grain that, if overcooked, won’t collapse but will become more tender. It’s wonderfully versatile, too: try it instead of pasta, rice, couscous or bulgur wheat next time you reach for those cupboard staples.
This dish is very versatile – have it with a green salad in Summer or some roast veg in Winter. I am be happy to have this by itself as a light lunch or supper.
Browse all of our Barley dishes and all of our Mushroom recipes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Early Autumn recipes.
Black Barley with its inky taste makes beautiful salads, like this one I made from pantry and garden ingredients during the COVID-19 lockdown (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. You might not have peach chutney ;), but you can substitute with something sweet-tart like barberries or dried cranberries, or use sweet – raisins for example – with a little more acid in the dressing.
Similar recipes include How to Use Purslane in Salads, Warm Barley and Cannellini Beans Salad with Charred Broccolini, Ghol Takatli Bhaji, and Quinoa and Purslane Salad.
Congee is made from slow and long cooked grains and lentils. Chinese rice congee is the best known around the world, but Korea and Japan also have congees, and India has kanji. The macrobiotic movement adopted congee as a delicious and nourishing dish, easy on the digestion. It can be eaten at any time of the day and is very popular for late night snacking and for breakfast. They say that the longer congee cooks, the more powerful it is.
You want to cook congee on the lowest possible heat, so it is barely simmering. Use a heat diffuser, especially for the second half of cooking, otherwise it may stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. I prefer to cook it in a Chinese clay pot – I believe the flavour is superior, and I keep my pot for congee only.
The earthy flavours of spinach, chickpeas and barley come together in this Winter dish which is Turkish in style. A soup, it is full of comfort, nourishment and hope for the future. Are you with me in your love for Winter soups? And with everything that is going on in the world at the moment, we need a little hope for the future. The inspiration for this came from Turquoise, a special book about Turkish cuisine.
Similar dishes include Potato and Chickpea Soup with Greens and Tahini, Chickpea and Parsley Soup with Turmeric, Chickpea and Orzo Soup, Mung Dal with Spinach and Cumin, Chickpeas and Beetroot Greens with Chilli, and Vegetable and Barley Soup.