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.