To me, pearl barley is the lost child, it’s definitely one of the most underrated ingredients out there. This humble ancient grain, is not only cheap to buy, is also packed full of amazing nutrients and super sustainable.
Did you know… Barley was one of the earliest crops cultivated by humans and it played a large part in kicking-off the first agricultural revolution around 10,000 years ago. Barley is also widely used for erosion control. Winter barley roots grow deep into soil, protecting it from wind and rain that can contribute to erosion. This is one reason why barley is often used as a cold-weather cover crop. It also releases nitrogen into the soil. Barley is known to help reduce weeds in soil by outcompeting and shading them. Because it prefers dry, arid climates and cannot withstand heavy moisture in the soil, barley is a relatively low water-intensive crop to grow.
The health benefits of barley are widely known. Barley is rich in beneficial micronutrients and phytochemicals, and it is among the very best sources of soluble dietary fibre and helpful beta-glucans in the human diet. If you’ve ever eaten it before, you know that it definitely get your guts moving! Numerous studies have highlighted barley’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and its association with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and stroke. Barley’s potassium, folate, iron, and vitamin B-6 content, together with its lack of cholesterol, all support cardiovascular functions and regulate blood sugar in the body.
I want you to love this grain, because, when cooked properly, it really is such a delicious ingredient! You could give this mushroom, preserved lemon and truffle barley ‘risotto’ a go and then tell me if I’m wrong.
BARLEY ‘ RISOTTO’ WITH MUSHROOMS, PRESERVED LEMONS AND TRUFFLE
300g Pearl barley 400g Any mushroom you like 3 Shallots, finely chopped 2 Cloves garlic, grated 1 Preserved lemon, finely chopped Shaved truffle or truffle oil (I used the oil here) Parmesan (leave out for a vegan version) Butter (Also leave out if you are vegan) Water or vegetable stock Olive oil Salt and Pepper to taste
1 – Barley takes longer to cook than rice. The first thing you wanna do is to place the barley in a pan, cover it with 1.5l water and let it simmer for 50 min to an hour. It will absorb the water really quickly, so keep and eye on it and keep adding more water or stock as needed.
2 – Whilst the barley is cooking away, start preparing the rest of the ingredients. Heat oil in a pan on a medium high heat and add the shallots and garlic, stir for a couple of minutes, then add the mushrooms. The pan needs to be really hot so that they caramelise. Keep frying the mushrooms for about 10 mins until they have a really deep brown colour and they taste really nutty. Add the chopped lemons then season to taste. Set aside.
3 – At this point, the barley will barely have stock in it and it will be quite thick, similar to risotto. Add the mushroom mixture to it and a little more water if needed. Keep stirring until is cooked through but it still has a bite and it’s a bit chewy.
4 – Just like a risotto, finish off with parmesan and some butter or leave out if you prefer it vegan. Add a splash of truffle oil or a few truffle shaves on top and there you go!
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