I love getting a hold of old-fashioned, not very utilised ingredients and then making something from them. In my mind, pearl barley fits the category. When was the last time you had barley? And how did you have it? I’ll wager that it was just a filler in a soup and that you ate said soup over a decade ago. Am I right? Barley is trying to make a quiet comeback but if you look in the dry soup goods area of your local supermarket, I’ll bet you’ll find that it’s still really cheap. The bag I bought was 500 grams and only $1.99!
Besides being full of goodness, grain salads provide an opportunity to have salad in the middle of winter. It’s been so cold here lately, that the last thing I want is icy cold crunchy veg in a bowl. Although this salad is room temperature, not hot, it’s still some sort of bridge between the winter comfort of warm food and the satisfying nutrition of a summer salad. It’s also very filling, which means you could really have just this for lunch and be more than full until afternoon tea. It’s got the bite of grain with the saltiness of the feta, rounded out by a tiny hit of sour sweetness from the dried cranberries, all the things you need to keep your puku happy.
Barley, Cranberry, Cashew and Feta Salad
1 Cup of uncooked pearl barley
3 Cups water or stock
1 handful of dried cranberries
1 handful of cashews
2 chopped spring onions
1 handful of chopped, flat-leaf parsley
100 grams feta or other creamy, salty cheese-chopped or broken
Pick through the barley and remove anything that looks yucky or is a stone. Place barley in the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a good simmer and cook until the barley is tender. It does take some time so plan ahead. Once barley is the desired texture, drain off any excess water and place in a serving bowl. Add the cranberries, cashews, spring onions and parsley and give it a good stir. Now season with the olive oil, vinegar* and then pepper to taste. Add the feta and fold in gently. Taste for saltiness and add salt if the feta is not enough for you.
*A good standard mix for dressing is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar but you may need a bit more vinegar to liven up this much grain.