I used to find it hard to get excited about barley, but that changed recently when I stumbled upon details of it’s wonderful virtues while researching the properties of different grains. I’ve always thought barley is delicious and underappreciated, but since reading up on it, my relationship with this versatile and nourishing grain has been a nonstop love affair.
Barley is pale brown in colour, has a rich nut like flavour and an appealing chewy, pasta-like consistency. It’s believed to be the oldest cultivated cereal and its claim to nutritional fame is varied and somewhat amazing.
- A very good source of molybdenum, manganese, dietary fibre, and selenium.
- A good source of copper, vitamin B1, chromium, phosphorus, magnesium, and niacin.
- A source of high fibre, which feeds friendly bacteria in the digestive tract. This means it can help to prevent colon cancer.
- Able to lower glucose levels.
- Thought to reduce blood pressure.
- Slow to digest, which may help weight control.
- Full of significantly less gluten than wheat.
- Effective in reducing appetite and maintaining a consistent energy level, when combined with protein.
- Amazing! 25g of barley gives you 100g of cooked, tender grain with only 123 calories
Tips for Preparing Barley
Usually barley is thought of as having limited culinary uses and is mainly confined to soup, but this lovely grain has a great versatility. In my recipes I generally use pearl barley which has a delicate nutty flavour.
Before cooking (like with all grains) rinse thoroughly under running water and then remove any bits that shouldn’t be there.
After rinsing, put in a pan – add one part barley to two parts boiling water. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat, cover and simmer until all the water has been absorbed. It’s now ready to use, or to store in the fridge or freezer.
Here I share with you three of my barley favourite recipes.
Quick Barley Risotto with Mixed Vegetables, Olives and Tomato and Chilli Sauce
This risotto accompanies roast chicken or salmon really well.
Place the barley and water in a pan, bring to boil, cover, and cook over a low heat for about 30 minutes.
Add the vegetables, stir, and cook for another 10-15 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed and vegetables are cooked. Make sure you stir the risotto occasionally to prevent barely from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Add the olives, tomato and chilli sauce and water into the risotto. Stir well and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Then stir in the cheese and mix well until the cheese has slightly melted. Season to taste.
Transfer into a serving dish. Garnish with basil leaves.
Barley, Chorizo and Mushrooms
This dish just needs a bowl of mixed green salad or a plate of lightly cooked green vegetables as accompaniments.
Place the barley and water in a pan, bring to boil, cover, and cook over a low heat for about 35-40 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. Make sure you stir the barley occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the chorizo and cook over a medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally until it is golden and most of the fat has rendered out. Then add the mushrooms and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
Add the chorizo, mushrooms and tomato, chili sauce into the risotto, stir well and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Season to taste.
Just before transferring into a serving dish, stir in the parsley.
Toasted Pecan, Feta and Barley Salad
I usually serve this wholesome dish with a bowl of mixed salad leaves.
Place the barley and water in a pan, bring to boil, cover, and cook over a low heat for about 35-40 minutes till all the liquid has been absorbed. Make sure you stir the barley occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the red pepper and cook over a medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring often until pepper is lightly cooked.
Then add the currants and cook for a further 1-2 minutes, until the currents are lightly plumped up. Remove from the heat.
Whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard and honey in a large bowl.
Add the barley and the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and toss to coat. Season to taste.