Cook the Book: Brown Barley

Chapter: Cereals – Recipe: Brown Barley

Oh, Marion. She so crazy. Before browsing through this book, I would have never attempted, or even thought of barley for breakfast. My inital reaction was “Really? Isn’t it kind of like farro?” But, it’s in the book, there must be something breakfasty about it. And let me be the one to tell you that yes, it is like farro, and yes, with sugar, milk and butter just about anything can be breakfasty.

Most of the things in this chapter were dishes I’d made or had before: granola, grits, oatmeal, cereal in its many forms. Seeing as that I had never had or prepared barely, I was intrigued. I went to my local co-op, my go-to stop for anything bulk, and sure enough they had several varieties for me to choose from. Marion says she had “always cooked pearled barley, which is pallid in comparison” so I knew it wasn’t that, but then there was this purple kind and another hulled barley. Ends up that pearled barley has had many of its outer fibers and bran stripped away, making if faster to cook, but less flavorful with less texture – so which one? Purple? Tan? Well, purple just seemed much more fun.

Not to my surprise, the barley indeed does cook up as any other whole grain, as individual pieces rather than developing a creamy consistency like oatmeal. It is rather plain, but brown sugar, a dot of butter, almond milk and fresh fruits brought it to life. I scoped out the perfect peach at the farmers market and the strawberries are in the height of the season now. The barley itself is a bit nutty and chewy, so while Marion suggests a dash of cream, I actually thought the almond milk was the perfect liquid for this combination. Always a fan of trying new things, I am very happy to have chosen this random, yet pleasantly delightful, hot morning cereal.

As part of ‘cook the book’ Rachel, Aimee, Natasha, Sammy and Claudie have more cereals to share with you!

Brown Barley*

  • 3 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup whole grain barley

Bring the water to a boil and add salt. Stir in the barely, turn the heat to low, and cover the pot. Cook over low heat for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking for doneness. It should be tender but chewy. Serve hot with desired toppings. Recommended brown sugar, butter, milk and fruits.

* Recipe from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham, 1987

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