Thursday, 27 June 2013

Barley: not just for soup

Pearl Barley, that fantastic addition to winter soups and stews, has numerous uses that I have experimented with. When used in a soup, boiled to death until it nearly melts into the soup, makes a wonderfully nutty thickener. And the sight of little bits of barley swimming around in a stew always reminds me of late autumn; they give a lightness to the orangey, autumnal soup.
In the recipe ahead barley is removed away from its traditional home and cooked al dente, mixed with light, sweet tastes of summer, and the ultimate comforting healthy(ish) meal - patties are formed, not burgers.

Pearl barley and spinach patties
Makes 6-8 patties, depending on size

Warning: these can have the tendency to be quite messy at the pattie forming stage.

- pearl barley, 175g
- spinach, around 120g
- lemon
- parsley, handful
- basil leaves, handful
- dried oregano, tsp
- medium egg, lightly beaten
- honey, tsp
- dried chilli (or a pinch of chilli flakes)
- plain white flour
- sea salt and black pepper
- olive oil, tbsp

Place the barley in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the barley is cooked but still chewy. Drain and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, place a saucepan over a medium heat and place the spinach in to wilt, turning frequently to prevent burning. Squeeze the liquid out through a sieve and place to one side to cool.
Place the cooled spinach, zest of the lemon, dried oregano, parsley and basil into a small food processor and blitz to a course, green purée. Transfer into a mixing bowl along with the cooled pearl barley, honey, chilli, salt, pepper and the beaten egg. Mix together, adding a tbsp of flour. The amount of flour needed will depend on the moisture retained in the mix, so add more (sometimes it takes 3 tbsp) if needed.
Heat the oil over a moderately high heat in a large frying pan. With floured hands, shape the mix into patties. In batches of two to three, fry the patties for about 6 minutes each side until golden brown on the outside.
Serve with anything that goes! In the picture they were eaten with a raw red cabbage salad and a dollop of wholegrain mustard, though I'd imagine they would also go well with a decent drizzling of aioli and wrapped in thin mountain bread.

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