Grains & Carbs: Braised barley and peas

Barley is such an underused, under appreciated whole grain. It has a slightly nutty flavour, a chewy texture, and can hold its own next to anything you throw at it. This braised barley recipe is a lot like a risotto, and it is so good that the last batch I made didn't survive long enough to make it to the freezer. That's high praise in a kitchen where batch cooking is the new black.

Barley contains compounds that are essential for bone and brain health, and has been linked to a reduced risk of viral infections, heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases. That's a lot of health impact for one little grain. The humble pea also snuck into this dish, which is pretty cool as it is both a protein and a vegetable.

While a risotto-like dish would typically be hard to imagine in combination with many things, this braised barley is an exception. It has a very neutral, tasty flavour profile that can be turned to fit European, Indian, South American, even Asian dishes. It goes with everything. It is the blue jean of your plant stash.

 

Recipe

  • 4L vegetable stock

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 2 onions, chopped

  • 2 tsp chopped thyme

  • 2 tsp chopped rosemary

  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed

  • 4 cups pearled barley

  • Zest of 1 lemon

  • 1 cup frozen peas

  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped

  • Box of sandwich bags

  • 1 large freezer bag

  1. Remove peas from the freezer and set aside at room temperature while you cook the barley, so that they defrost

  2. Pour the stock into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm while you make the barley

  3. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the onion, thyme and rosemary. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the onion is beginning to turn golden, then add the crushed garlic and cook for a further 1 minute.

  4. Pour the barley into the pan and stir well. Cook for 1 minute to lightly toast the grains

  5. Add 1/4 of the stock to the pan, one ladleful at a time, and cook the barley, stirring frequently. Once the stock is absorbed, add another quarter of the stock and continue cooking and stirring until all of the stock has been used. The barley should be nice and creamy but still a little wet

  6. Remove from the heat and stir through the lemon zest, peas and parsley

  7. Cool in the fridge

  8. Spoon a half cup of the mixture into each sandwich bag, until all of the mixture is used. Seal the bags with minimal air inside, and place inside the large freezer bag. Label the freezer bag with "braised barley and peas" and the date, and store in the freezer until required