Barley is the unsung hero of the wholegrain world, and right now, our farmers need us to get cooking with it! It has a delicious nutty flavour and chewy texture that is comforting to boot. And you can use it in just about anything from soups, risottos and pilafs, to salads, breakfast porridge or barley puddings to drinks like lemon barley water or tea.
Traditional barley ‘groats’ or unhulled barley, is the whole grain with only the outer hull removed. Although it takes longer to cook than pearl barley (about 1 hour), it is worth every minute you wait.
Pearl barley is the more commonly known and used form of barley. It is still nutritious, but the outer husk and bran layers have been removed. The polished grains are also softer and take less time to cook than unhulled barley groats, about 40 minutes. Most recipes call for pearl barley or intend for cooks to use this type even if they don’t specify. However, it is usually fine to substitute hulled barley. Just be aware that you may need to adjust the recipe cooking time. You can also bake it covered in the oven with water or milk; add some spices (nutmeg, cinnamon etc), nuts or seeds and use it as a breakfast porridge or supper.
Barley tastes delicious on its own but here are a few more ideas to get you cooking:
1. In soup – Most of us know beef and barley soup but why not try this chicken and barley broth (with unhulled groats)
2. As a drink! – Lemon barley water is made by simmering pearl barley in water, straining the liquid, and adding lemon and sweetener. It’s as simple as that! Served warm in winter or iced in summer.
3. In a Mediterranean Salad – combine with roast vegetables, feta and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for a taste sensation
4. For breakfast – Replace your traditional oats with a chewy bowl of nutty barley. Add a splash of milk, some manuka honey and fresh fruit.
5. In a barley risotto – Try this barley risotto with mushrooms from Seasons and Suppers. It’s an interesting change for risotto, which is usually made from rice.
What is your favourite barley recipe?