Barley is one of the world’s oldest grains, which is scandalously underused in Western European Cooking.  

Its texture and mildly nutty taste make it a great accompaniment to robust winter stews, but it also makes a nutritious summer salad.


1 cup Pearled Barley, rinsed
3 cups water

1/4 cucumber, peeled and finely diced
1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
1 small onion or shallot, finely diced
A big handful of fresh herbs, e.g. Thyme, Marjoram, Rosemary, Mint, Parsley or a mixture.
Good Pinch Salt (preferably Maldon or Coarse Sea Salt)
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
Juice of half a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper to taste.


Proper Pearled Barley has had the outer husks removed, with most of the germ and bran left intact, and is brownish in appearance.  Try to avoid the really highly polished Pearl Barley you get in supermarkets, as this has been refined to the point where only white starch is left. 

Rinse the Barley and place in a saucepan with the water.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer, covered, until the barley has swelled up and softened.  Cooking times can vary, but I find it should cook in 20-30 mins.  Add more water during cooking if the mix gets too dry.

While the Barley is cooking make a dressing with the herbs, oil and lemon.  The alternating sunshine and showers during the last couple of weeks has created a perfect growing environment for lots of garden herbs and they benefit from regular trimming, so use generous amounts of whatever you have.  Chop the herbs finely, then put them in a Pestle and Mortar with the Salt and bash them up.  Mix in the oil and leave them to infuse while getting on with the rest of the dish.

Once the Barley is cooked, drain off any excess liquid and put the Barley in a Bowl.  Add the lemon juice to the herb and oil mixture, pour it over the Barley and mix well.  Stir in the Cucumber, pepper and onion, season to taste and leave to cool.

This works well as a salad, or just add some diced feta cheese for a quick lunch.

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