Raise your hand if the majority of your exposure to barley has been in the form of beef and barley soup. Chances are, your hand is up right now.
Despite its prevalence in livestock feed and beer making, barley is only starting to gain traction as a grain worthy of incorporating into the average diet. In that spirit, here are six sweet and savoury ways to eat more of it.
1. Barley Cookies or Granola Bars
I admit, barley cookies may sound strange, but it’s a grain just like oats are a grain, so technically it makes a lot of sense. Try using cooked barley in a batch of hearty “breakfast” cookies, with applesauce as the base to reduce the fat and sugar, and plenty of dried fruit, nuts, and seeds for sustenance.
In general, you can substitute barley for half of the oats in your favourite oatmeal cookie recipe to change up the texture. This same strategy can be applied to other oat-based recipes like granola or granola bars. You may even find that you like the texture and taste better than recipes that use exclusively oats.
2. Barley Pudding
Consider it like rice pudding, but healthier. Barley is full of fibre, which makes it the perfect component for a filling, guilt-free dessert. All you have to do is substitute rice for barley in your favourite rice pudding recipe. You may need to add a bit more liquid and cook it for a bit longer to ensure that the barley isn’t too al dente, but otherwise the methodology is the same. Cook, chill, and eat. Oh and sweetening it with maple syrup is definitely a must! It’s a natural Canadian pairing to go with barley given its similar roasty toasty undertones.
3. Barley Sushi
This one is a bit out there, but when you really think about it, the concept is not much different from brown rice sushi. All you need to do is cook some barley, get yourself some nori, and roll it up with the fish and/or vegetables of your choice. Keep in mind that cooked barley is not quite as sticky as sushi rice. So in constructing your maki, try rolling it with the nori on the outside and the barley on the inside to keep it all together. Alternately, you can make rice paper rolls with barley and vegetables as the filling. Whether you’re making them for lunch, dinner, or a snack, they’re tasty and also super portable.
4. Barley Stuffing
Barley can be eaten all on its own, or be an accoutrement to complement another more highlighted ingredient. Try using it as a stuffing, flavoured with plenty of aromatics like onions, garlic, and herbs. Once these are all cooked together, you can stuff them into pretty much anything under the sun.
Stuffed squash? Check. Stuffed mushrooms? Absolutely! Stuffed peppers? You bet. Heck, you could even spread the mixture onto the protein of your choice and roll it into a roulade, sear the outsides, and roast until cooked through. Barleystuffed turkey breast, porchetta, or beef roast would all work just fine and dandy.
5. Barley Arancini
Pretty much any graincan be made into risotto, and barley is no exception. Follow the procedure for making regular risotto, just substitute Arborio rice for barley and taste as you go, adding only enough liquid to ensure that the barley is cooked through.
You can also take it one step further and turn that risotto into arancini. The only thing better than creamy risotto is chilling it, rolling it into balls, and frying it into crispy, melt-in-your mouth fritters. Naturally you need cheese to make the most of this process. Given the nutty flavour that barley lends, you can complement that with an equally nutty cheese like Gruyere or Emmental.
6. Barley Crisp or Crumble
Here we switch to the sweet side of life — or at least potentially we do. Barley and oats have a lot in common when it comes to their nutty flavour profile. The biggest difference is you have to cook barley before using it in various applications, rather than tossing it in raw like oats. The next time you whip up a batch of apple crumble, try mixing cooked barley into your topping to add some chewy texture in with the crispy oats. You can totally go savoury here, too. For example, you could use barley to top a mushroom and pea crumble with plenty of chopped thyme and rosemary tossed into the mix. How’s that for dinner on a chilly end-of-winter night?