Barley is one of my favourite foods. I have made risottos with it recently, with tomato, artichoke and feta (it is so good - I'll put that one up sometime!) and with butternut squash and fennel (also excellent!) and also had it in salads and vegetable soups. It's absolutely delicious and I'm always on the look out for a new barley recipe! It's also incredibly cheap. A 500g bag of barley from my local Sainsbury's is 39p. B is also for bargain!
A little while ago, after they commented on one of my posts, I discovered a wonderful web site run by two nutritionists - they call themselves The Food Fairies! If you haven't heard of them, I recommend checking them out. Even if you aren't a nutritional nerd like me (!), I think if you're interested in good health and eating well you'll enjoy it as their style is really friendly and accessible. I love how their posts are so informative without being preachy, and totally relatable and relevant for young women. After reading eagerly through their archives, I discovered this delicious sounding barley dish - chickpea, barley and coconut stirfry - which I cooked for myself and Tom. We had had a few too many nights of red wine and cheese and needed a bit of a detox :)
Oh my word, we were not prepared for this feast of deliciousness! I could literally feel it doing me good, and my tastebuds were singing at the same time. I love it when I find a meal like that :)
Rachel and Lola, who are the two nutritionists behind the Food Fairies, gave me kind permission to adapt and reproduce their recipe here. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as Tom and I have!
And if you aren't tempted by how delicious it is, check out how good it is for you:
Barley is a fibre rich alternative to rice and leaves you feeling satisfied for hours.
Chickpeas are rich in phytoestrogens which work to help balance hormone levels in women. They fill the gaps when there is too little oestrogen in circulation (e.g. post-menopause) and they block the receptor sites if there are too many circulating oestrogens (e.g. when taking the pill.) Chickpeas are also a source of protein, great for the bones and brimming with antioxidants! YAY for having an excuse to eat hummous every day :D
Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory and immune supporting properties.
Fresh ginger and garlic are immune supporting and anti-inflammatory foods, a must for every stirfry :)
Fresh vegetables are just great. Full stop.
Chickpea, barley and coconut stirfry
Adapted from The Food Fairies
I needed to cook up a batch of something so I sort of quadrupled the Food Fairies original recipe ;) This seriously makes HEAPS. You could probably serve 8 people with this - or 2 hungry people, and then enough for about 5 lunch portions to freeze (as we did)! I haven't reproduced their recipe exactly - I left out the tomatoes and extra cabbage because I didn't have any, and I've also used a whole packet of barley because I wanted to make enough to get us through the week. If you are only cooking for one or two and you'd like to see their original recipe it's here.
But here's my version:
1 x 500g packet pearl barley
1 can coconut milk
1-2 cups vegetable stock (may need more)
Place the barley, coconut milk and stock in a stockpot and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about an hour or until the barley is tender (but still with a bit of bite). Alternatively, if you have a rice cooker you can put it all in there and just cook according to your rice cooker's instructions. I did that the other night and it worked brilliantly! Check it while it cooks and add more stock if it needs it.
In the meantime, in a wok or pan, add:
A dash of olive or rapeseed oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 inches of fresh ginger, grated or chopped finely
Fry until aromatic.
A few shakes of turmeric and cumin
Fresh coriander or a squirt of coriander paste you can get in a tube (as much as you like)
1 large packet of supermarket stirfry vegetables (I just used the Sainsbury's basics one which has onion, carrot, cabbage and beansprouts in it)
1 can chickpeas, drained
Cook for about 10 minutes. You might need to add a bit of vegetable stock to stop it from sticking.
Finally, add the cooked barley to the vegetables and chickpeas and stir so everything is combined.
Serve in noodle bowls with a drizzle of chilli sauce on the top....just because :)
Seriously, this is one of the most delicious things ever. It keeps well in the fridge and freezer too - and tastes even more delicious a day later, if anything. Tom asks for this for dinner at least once a week now! I am going to have to teach him how to make it himself :D
PS: I'll be doing a podcast interview with The Food Fairies soon - do you have any burning questions? Leave them in a comment and I'll ask them :)