It’s easy these days to get carried away with what’s new and exciting – especially in the world of food. We are constantly bombarded with marketing ploys and colourful packaging that claim ‘superfood’ status and optimum nutrition. I’m certainly not suggesting that I don’t occasionally ride the wave of the latest ‘trendy’ ingredient – hello quinoa, goji berries, and maca – but I think sometimes we forget that these ingredients have been around for centuries. Pearl barley may soon join quinoa, goji berries and maca in the pantheon of ancient ‘superfoods’ enjoying a much-deserved resurgence.
Barley, Europe’s oldest cultivated cereal grain and once considered as a food of the poor or fit only for animal feed, is a truly versatile and super grain. How super is it? The wonderful, silky, plump texture and satisfying, grainy taste is both a treat for the senses and the body. A small, oval, low GI grain, pearl barley contains both soluble and insoluble fibre, and contains many essential vitamins like iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.
Recently, The Good Guys sent me a Sunbeam Risotto and Rice Perfect cooker as part of Voices of 2013. I thought when better an opportunity to celebrate the versatility of pearl barley and help it along its path of resurgence. I also thought it would be fun to test the limits of the cooker and see what it could do beyond cooking rice and rice-like substitutes.
In this recipe, pearl barley takes a starring, beguiling role in my feel-good breakfast porridge. Cooked gently in a mixture of almond milk and water, the little barley grains puff up and become gloriously fluffy and plump. A handful of dried cherries and almonds are stirred through at the last minute and the porridge is served with spiced poached pears, coconut flakes, and a drizzle of coconut cream.
2 firm pears, peeled, halved and cored
1 ½ cups pomegranate juice
1 cup water
1 ½ cups apple sparkling
¼ tsp clove
¼ tsp cardamom
Thumb sized piece of ginger, sliced
A thick piece of orange peel
½ cup pearl barley, rinsed
1 cup almond milk
2 ½ cups water
1 tbsp dried cherries, chopped
1 tbsp coconut flakes
1 tbsp almonds, chopped
½ cup organic coconut milk, to serve
Maple syrup, to serve
Place pomegranate juice, sparkling apple juice, cinnamon stick, clove, star anise, cardamom, ginger, and orange peel into the Sunbeam Risotto and Rice Perfect cooker. Place pear halves into the poaching liquid. Turn Sunbeam Risotto and Rice Perfect cooker on. Press menu until the light shows up next to ‘rice’. Pop the lid on a cook for 20-25 minutes, or until tender when pricked with a sharp knife. Remove the lid transfer pears to a large bowl. Pour over remaining poaching liquid and set aside to cool while you cook the barley.
PEARL BARLEY PORRIDGE:
For the pearl barley, clean out the bowl of the Sunbeam Risotto and Rice Perfect cooker. Return to its base. Add barley to the bowl along with milk and water. Press menu until the light shows up next to ‘rice’. Pop the lid back on a leave to cook for 25-30 minutes. You will hear the cooker beep when it’s cooked and it will automatically switch over to the ‘keep warm’ function when done. Stir in cherries and return the lid to ‘keep warm’ for 5 more minutes.
To serve, divide the barley porridge between two bowls. Top with coconut flakes, almonds and poached pears. Serve with a drizzle of coconut milk and maple syrup, if desired.