Happy New Year! It’s Veganuary and so I bring you a hearty salad using pearl barley as its base. This grain seems to have come back into fashion; most of us remember our Mums and Grandmothers adding it to stews as a way of making the meat go further and to absorb the lovely gravy, but now we use it in lots of other ways too. It is plain on its own but goodness; with a bit of oil and garlic it is delicious.
I love salads in January after the excesses of Christmas and New Year and this one can be served warm or made the day before you need it to let the flavours develop. I love the pop of pomegranate seeds; they add colour but also just a touch of acidity. (Oh, I almost sounded like a chef then!)
Salads are versatile so feel free to play around with the type of vegetables you add but do make sure they retain some crunch. I hope you enjoy this way of bringing pearl barley back into your cooking.
Pearl Barley and Vegetable Salad
Ingredients (serves 2 -3)
250g butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut roughly into 1.5cm squares
100g pearl barley, rinsed well
80g green beans, trimmed
80g carrots, peeled and cut into batons roughly the same size as the beans
50g sun dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
Handful of black olives, pitted and halved
1 red onion finely sliced
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and pepper
Garnish -Torn fresh basil, pomegranate seeds and olive oil to serve.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the pearl barley and cook according to the pack instructions (mine took about 40 minutes) or until just tender with no chalky white bit in the centre of the grain. Drain and rinse with boiling water (or cold water if serving the salad cold).
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 5. Toss the squash in a little olive oil, place on a roasting tray and roast for 20 – 25 minutes, until slightly charred at the edges and just soft. Leave to cool if serving the salad cold.
Add a steamer or sieve to the barley pan when there’s about 7 minutes of cooking time left and add the beans and carrots. Steam until just tender and either rinse with cold water or just drain. (Or just boil the veg in a pan for a few minutes).
While all the veg and pearl barley are cooking, prepare the other ingredients apart from the garnish and add to a bowl. Once the vegetables and barley are ready, tip them into the bowl, and mix very gently, adding a twist of salt and pepper. To serve immediately, place the salad on a serving dish, sprinkle with plenty of pomegranate seeds and torn basil and finish with a drizzle of olive oil. To serve the next day, leave off the basil garnish and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving and then add the basil. Either way it’s delicious.
I’m going to try making more interesting salads this year, so you never know; one or two might turn up here!