Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pearls of Health?

Ever since I tasted barley pulao at a health food restaurant, I’ve eyed the barley packets in the store with some curiosity. I’ve often seen descriptions of cooked barley as a chewy affair but I prefer to think of the grain as one that offered me the opportunity to savour its taste and texture, unlike rice which is gone in a trice!

After checking images on the Internet, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s pearl barley I used, though the pack didn’t say so. Pearl barley is a processed form of the grain, with the husk and more components (and so nutrients) removed, but I get the impression it’s still a better alternative to rice and wheat. (My barley was white enough for me to believe it was processed.) There’s more information here and here.

In any case, it doesn’t go down as easily as rice or roti, so there must be some truth that it’s healthier – the path of logic proceeding from the point that whatever’s yummy is bad for you and whatever’s not so tasty is good for you!

A recent visit to the restaurant again hastened me into buying some barley and experimenting with it. I didn’t put too many elements in it as it was the first time and I wasn’t sure how long it would take to cook and how well it would absorb the flavours. The result was a tasty and mild dish that looked pretty with all the raisins and almonds that I used to give it some crunch.

Pearl barley – 1 cup
Water – 4-5 cups

Bay leaf – 1
Cinnamon – 2-inch piece
Cloves – 2
Cardamom – 1

Onion, chopped – ½
Green chillies, chopped – 2
Almonds – a fistful, chopped
Raisins – a fistful, soaked for a while in water
Olive oil – 1 tbsp
Salt – to taste

I will take you through how I cooked the barley first – as it was new to me, I first boiled three cups of water and added the barley to it. I let it absorb the water but the grain still had a hard core so I added one more cup and then another. Midway through the fifth cup, I decided the barley had cooked well enough so I drained it and added some salt to the barley.

In a pan, heat the oil, add the whole spices.

Add the onions, fry till translucent.

Add the green chillies, fry till they lighten.

Lower the heat. Now add the almonds and raisins, swish them around briefly.

Add the cooked barley, mix well.

Plain, thick curds/yoghurt makes a great accompaniment, as I was to discover last night. This could even make a filling breakfast if the idea of garam masala/curry spice in the morning doesn’t put you off.


  1. Beautiful Sra for the barley. Very nice. Viji

  2. Hey they do look like pearls. Are they really chewy? I have never seen barley.
    The pulao is nice.Liked the recipe. If I get barley will surely try it.

  3. Hi Sra..amazing job have managed to dress up something " not tasty" to look ( and taste) delicious..:-)...

  4. The dish looks awesome Sra, but barley... hmm... I stay away from it normally, but that pic is really tempting... may be I could substitute some kind of rice for barley and try this, what do you think?

  5. 5 cups of water to cook 1 cup of barley? ~whistles~
    looks pretty. i have not seen or tried barley till now. will check for one small pack and start my experiment. guinea pig is ready in my lab;)

  6. I bought Barley flour last week,still don't know what to do with it.May be I will make some rotis.
    Pearl Barley dish looks great sra,enjoy:))

  7. The dish looks tempting enough to be tried out...

  8. hey barley pulav looks pretty good with all that almonds & raisins! never tried barley, though have heard of it's nutrition content & all :)

  9. Sra, you are right. Pearl (meaning polished) barley has the bran removed as well as the husk. It's used a lot in soups and stews, particularly good in a rich meat broth (Scotch Broth). You can also get it flaked or steel-cut (little bits), like oatmeal. These are less processed and more nutritious.

    Your recipe is an nice, inventive take on a grain that's not nearly as popular as wheat or corn. It's something of an acquired taste.

  10. i love the chewiness of whole grain barley. it can be ground up to give bulk to cutlets/burgers, etc. your recipe is inventive and very appealing.

  11. You sure are into innovations, arenm't you ? The pic looks delightful, not really a fan of barley, but your pulao looks awesome

  12. Thanks, Viji!
    Archana, they are not as chewy as whole-grain, but definitely need more chomping than white rice.
    Santhi, hi! I was resigned to it tasting so-so but it tasted quite good, especially one day later.
    Sig, thanks. Maybe you could try brown rice? Or wild rice - I've not eaten it but it sounds nice, LOL! What about couscous? That would be soft enough.
    Sia, my guinea pig just sniffs and pecks at my experiments, says v nice and proceeds to eat rice and pickle!!!
    Asha, I do that too, buy a lot of new stuff and keep it for years - then dump it - don't turn into me!
    Sunita, do I sense a ... but..? It's worth a try.
    Richa, the flavours improved with keeping!
    Susan, thanks. I didn't need to work at cultivating a taste - the health food restaurant I mentioned did a good job of convincing me. They even had a tomato-barley version - tomato rice is a favourite meal here!
    Bee, thanks. I hope to post more barley dishes. We used to have a health foods store here which sold all rare grains but it closed down, so dunno when I'll be able to get my hands on whole barley.
    Sandeepa, yes, I love to eat new stuff though I'm not sure I innovate much - the blog inspires me nowadays. thanks!

  13. nice alternative to rice... Looks very healthy too..

  14. Really looks like real pearls. Its healthy too. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful and healthiest recipe SRA.

  15. Hey, I've never tasted barley anytime. this is a must try..... Thanx

  16. I've had barley before in a soup and as a porridge. Would you say the dish you made is a sweet or savoury one? or is it like a salad?

  17. Sra,

    barley thinali ante koncham bayam vestundi. as you said anything that does not go down the throat fairly quickly is bad.

    I should muster up courage to try this some time soon

  18. Revathi, hello, it's a better alternative, I think. It's really filling - 2 tbsps and that's enough!
    Jyothi, yes, pearls! Thanks.
    Ramya, it's not bad at all - go for it!
    Cynthia, the dish is savoury, it's not sweet but the raisins add a bit of sweet-sour when you bite into them - without the spices, it would be quite bland. Lessen the barley, and it could be a salad too, I suppose!
    Sreelu, I said the opposite LOL! Anything that goes down with difficulty is good for health. Bhayam deniki - just do it!

  19. I've never used pearl barley - just the other kind, in a pretty good soup. I like what you've done with the pearl barley!

  20. food restaurants are springing up everywhere I guess...I heard from a friend residing at chennai , mentioning one such rest at Anna nagar...


  21. Very healthy, indeed. I love your photo.


  22. WOW sra
    that is fantastic.I used to drink barley water in my child hood days.that is healthy too.
    the picture is wonderful!!!!i know the pulao also tastes good!!!:-)

  23. And I don't think I even saw the other kind of barley, Cyndi ... :)
    Shn, do you know the name of that restaurant?
    Thanks, Paz.
    Swapna, thank you!

  24. hi SRA how are you..thats cool search from net..ha long..good day.bye.

  25. I adore Pearl Barley particularly in stews and this is a great way of cooking this nutty, chewy grain!

  26. this looks like a delicious breakfast item... I've not eaten barley in a long time... I have memories of eating it when sick. Maybe it's time to try it again!

  27. that is a very new one to me. sounds healthy and nice. but to experiment such recipes you need real guts:)

  28. Its very unique. Cool pic too. Thanks for sharing this recipe

  29. have never done anything with barley... pulao with it including almonds and raisins sounds really interesting. thanks for the recipe.

  30. Pankaj, thanks.
    Freya 'n Paul, I must look for a stew next time, many people have mentioned it.
    Mandira, I don't think I'd ever had barley before I tried it in that restaurant, not even lemon-barley water.
    Sharmi, LOL!
    Bubbalili, thank you!
    Prema, try it! I read your comments on the other posts, too, thanks.

  31. I use barley often, especially in soups. This recipe looks great, I'm going to try this.

  32. Hi Julie, let me know if it worked! Thanks for stopping by!


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