It’s the hint of sweet spices, orange juice and currants that I love most in this Middle Eastern spiced pearl barley salad. The flavours and the irresistible turmeric colouring infuse into the nutty pearl barley, making every mouthful layered with taste. A sprinkling of toasted almonds, garnished over the top, adds the perfect and necessary crunchy texture to this salad. So it’s no surprise when people ask me to ‘bring a salad’ this is often the one I resort to.
Let’s face it, dried grains, particularly pearl barley, are a very affordable way of feeding people. And unlike some of the other more robust pulses (chickpeas or black beans) pearl barley can be cooked straight from the packet, no pre soaking required. It makes it an excellent choice for those who forget to plan ahead – or for those who tend to leave cooking to the last minute.
Because of the filling nature of grain salads there are often left overs (I’m not complaining). Put them to good use. I sometimes fry up any remaining pearl barley and eat it rolled in a wrap the next day with some tahini, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and green salad leaves. It’s perfect lunch time fare.
Middle Eastern Pearl Barley Salad
1 cup pearl barley
1 brown onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 stick celery, roughly chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp all spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin
1/3 cup dried currants
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup toasted slithered almonds
Place the pearl barley in a pot, cover with plenty of water, bring to the boil and cook for 35 – 40 minutes or till pearl barley is just cooked through. Drain and rinse briefly under hot water, set aside.
Meanwhile, place the roughly chopped onion, carrot and celery in a food processor and blitz lightly to a small dice.
Warm 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan, add the vegetables, all the spices and a large pinch of salt, stir and cover with a lid, cook on a gentle heat for 5 minutes.
Zest half the orange, then juice the whole orange. Add the orange zest and juice to the saucepan along with the currants, cover with a lid again and cook a further five minutes. Remove from heat and set aside for flavours to infuse for 10 minutes.
Place the spiced vegetables and currants in a medium bowl, add the cooked pearl barley and chopped parsley, stir well to combine. Check the seasoning, and drizzle with a little more extra virgin oil if needed.
Serve on a platter or in a large bowl and scatter with the toasted almonds.
Any left overs store in the fridge for 2-3 days.