When I say barley many of you likely think of beer… RIGHT? Well this little ancient grain serves more purposes than it's role in beer production. Although it is one of our oldest cultivated crops, it is starting to become a modern culinary delight.
Some people however are still yet to discover what barley has to offer in the way of versatility and nutrition.
The barley that we commonly consume today is pearl barley, which has had the tough hulls removed. The end product is a highly nutritious, nutty textured grain that can be used in soups and stews and as an alternative for risotto or pilafs.
Not only is it packed with the goodness of minerals such as selenium, magnesium and phosphorus, it has a low glycemic index (GI). This means the carbohydrate breaks down to glucose at a slow and steady rate, leaving you with more sustain energy levels and keeping you fuller for longer. Barley also contains beta glucans that can help to lower blood cholesterol levels.
So have I sold you yet?
Why not start your barley discovery with this very simple barley pilaf recipe. The recipe calls for certain fresh vegetables (pretty much what I had in the fridge when I set out to develop this recipe), however you can use whatever vegetables you desire. You may even like to use frozen mixed vegetables when the fresh produce is almost at an end.
Let me know what you think, especially if this is your first experience with barley.
Barley Pilaf (serves 3-4)
1 cup of pearled barley
250g of halloumi, thickly sliced
1 bay leaf
2 ½ cups of salt reduced vegetable stock
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 zucchini, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
1 carrot, diced
½ cup of frozen peas, thawed
½ cup chopped parsley (or herb of your choice)
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
Juice from half a lemon
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
Add onion and season with pepper and cook until tender.
Add barley and cook for approximately 3 minutes.
Add stock and bay leaf, bring to the boil then simmer covered until barley tender (stirring occasionally), this will take approximately 25 minutes.
Once the barley is tender add vegetables (except for the peas) and some extra stock if required, cook for approximately 5 minutes (or until vegetables start to cook through).
Remove from heat, stir through peas, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
While to pilaf is standing, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over a medium to high heat, cook the halloumi for approximately 1 minute on each side.
Then, remove the bay leaf from the pilaf, season with pepper and stir through the the parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice. Divide between bowels and top with halloumi.