When most of us think of barley, we think of it used in stews to add more density and bulk. I’d have to say my favorite way to use it is in salads due to its neutral flavour and interesting texture. Served warm or cold, it can very easily turn a simple salad into a light meal for those who aren’t too hungry. Great as a summer salad at a barbecue or equally as suitable with a roast dinner. Interestingly, barley is wheat-free however it does contain a form of gluten which can be tolerated by some coeliacs.
There are a few interesting ingredients in this one, but of course this salad really lends itself to being quite adaptive with different ingredients. My flavour inspiration for this one came from a cook book my mum gifted me from her recent travels in Scotland. A gorgeous book called ‘Carina Contini’s – Kitchen Garden Cook Book’. A Scottish/ Italian extraordinary woman whom, together with her family, run several award-winning sustainable restaurants in Scotland. Browsing through this cookbook, I felt like I could breathe the essence of this family through the recipes, pictures and words. I have always had a fascination with cook books, but this one is truly one of my favorites. Each chapter is broken down into months, where Carina lists which seasonal veggies are to be planted or are ripe for the picking and are then cooked in her dishes for that month. Whilst I am not a gardener by any means and quite honestly do not have the slightest idea of when or how to plant things, I whole heartedly support notion of sustainable, seasonal eating. This is of course where we can expect the very best in quality, flavour and freshness from ingredients thus feeding our families foods with the richest of nutrients. Turning to the ‘July’ section, I came across Carina’s version of a barley salad that used fennel which is in-season, so with her inspiration I decided to come up with this variation. You can very easily leave the fennel raw, I just thought I would sweat it out with the red onion to bring out its sweetness and leave the almonds to deliver the crunch factor.
I hope you enjoy this brilliant salad! xxx
- 11/2 cups Pearl Barley - Soaked for 30 minutes, the rinsed.
- 3 cups water
- 1 red onion - sliced finely
- 1 large fennel - sliced finely
- a large handful of parsley - chopped
- 1 can butter beans - drained & rinsed
- 100g blanched almonds - roasted and roughly chopped
- 1 large lemon - juice only
- 1 red chilli - de-seeded & finely sliced (optional)
- 5 tbsp good quality olive oil - for dressing
- 2 tbsp olive oil - for frying the onion & fennel
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the oven to 180℃ - place the almonds on a baking tray and roast until they start to turn lightly golden.
- Soak the pearl barley in water for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse off the cloudy starch water and place the barley into a pot with 3 cups of water. Bring the pot to the boil and then reduced the heat to a slow simmer until the barley is cooked with a slight bite to it. Drain any excess water and spread it out evenly onto a baking tray to cool so it doesn't over cook.
- Heat up a frying pan to a medium heat with the 2 tbsp of olive oil and cook the sliced onion and fennel until they are soft. Try not to burn them - add small amounts of water at intervals if need be to stop it burning. Remove from the pan once cooked and set aside.
- Once all the ingredients are ready - In a large serving bowl, add the cooked barley, cooked onion & fennel, drained butter beans, almonds, chopped chilli and chopped parsley.
- Dress the salad with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add or remove quantities as you prefer.