I have two new recipes for you today. The idea for them originated with my desire to expand my use of healthy cereals and grainsin the foods i make. I like to organize my meals around a protein; add some healthy carbs and some vegetables and there you go: A nutritious, tasty, and varied meal.

There are a number of ways to play with those 3 components of a recipe. Idealy, you want a mix of textures, colors (yes, I think food is more apetizing when it looks appealing!), tastes and ingredients. Additionaly these aspects should complement each other. In any case, these were some of my challenges when thinking about how I would use the barley I decided to experiment with.

Honestly, barley is not an ingredient i’ve eaten often. My fondest memories of it revolve around eating it in heart warming fall and winter beef stews. I’ve also had it occasionaly as an alternative to rice in a risotto. Of course, it’s also used for malting, and thus i’ve enjoyed quite extensively while drinking beer and whisky, but that doesn’t really figure in our “healthy” category…

With this in mind, i took some pearl barley which i had in my cupboard and let it soak over night in order to prepare the next day. I thought about what i could make and as usually is the case, I came up with my recipes while looking through my fridge and figuring out which ingredients needed to be used the soonest.

Firstly, taking my inspiration from it’s wonderfully chewy texture in soups, I decided to prepare a asian and vegetarian style soup. My second idea was slightly more elaborate and evolved as I cooked it(which is also often the case… haha). A delicious red beet, goat cheese and blood orange barley risotto is what i made.

Here are the recipes;

1- Asian style vegetarian soup


INGREDIENT LIST; Barley, tofu, celeri, carrots,brussel sprouts, shitake mushrooms, onions, garlic, ginger, pepper, soya sauce, chilli flakes, hoisin sauce, black bean paste, and coriander leaves.

  • Prepare barley; soak overnight and dry roast in pan 
  • Make a nage(light vegetable stock) with onions,garlic, ginger, carrots, celeri, bay leaf, and shitake stems, pepper, and of course water. Let it simmer as long as possible. This is great to have in the house, so make a lot and freeze into individual cup sized portions if possible. Use it for risottos, soups, stirfrys, etc.
  • Marinatetofu cubes in soya sauce, chilli flakes, hoisin sauce, and black bean paste
  • Cutcarrots, brussel sprouts, celeri, and shitake mushrooms into small bite size pieces
  • Strain stock and keep liquid, not ingredients! (I have a funny story i’ll one day share with you about this…)
  • Add the ingredients to the stock and simmer until vegetables are a desirable consistency. I personally like to add the celeri at the very end because I like the crunch. this is also the point where i add a few coriander leaves.

2-Red beet, blood orange, barley risotto

adding orange juice to risotto

INGREDIENT LIST; Barley, beets(in this case red, but use yellow beets if that’s what you have), toasted walnuts, goat cheese, parsley, blood orange juice and zest,

  • Prepare barley; soak and dry roast in pan
  • Cut beet or beets into small cubes, boil in quite a bit of water, depending on how much barley you’re cooking, try a 3 to 1 ratio, even 4 to 1 just to be sure, eventually you’ll be able to improvise and not actually use any ratios.
  • On a medium high heat, finish dry roasting the barley and then add relatively small amounts of beet water to the pan; don’t cover the barley with it. What you want to do is slowly imbibe the barley grain with the color and flavor the beet water, letting it soak into the barley and evaporate to concentrate the flavors. When the pan starts become dry and void of liquid, repeat the procedure until the risotto is cooked to your liking; has a nice rich color and then add the remaining beet cubes. You don’t need to use all the water. The texture will never be the same as a starchy rice risotto. The barley grains retain more of their chewy consistency. 
  • Take off the heat.
  • Add goat cheese, orange juice, 1/4 to 1/2 a cup depending on how much you’ve cooked, some of the orange zest, finely chopped fresh parsley and the toasted walnuts.

I served the risotto with a cauliflower puree, a seared chicken breast which i finish with some lemon, orange zest and parsley. I finished it all with a fennel salad in honey, mustard seed vinaigrette which i served on top of the chicken.

So there you have it, two recipes which you can enjoy barley in. They’re simple to make once, cheap and healthy, so don’t cook rice or pasta tomorrow night, get some barley, soak it and start thinking of the various ways that you could have fun using it.


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