Barley is an herbaceous plant, that is quite similar to spelt. It is known to have been used since the stone ages and cultivated by Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, who used it to prepare breads, cakes, soups and naturally fermented beer.
Barley has a great capacity to adapt to its environment. Its short life cycle allows it to be grown almost as far north as the Arctic Circle, where it is the only grain that, if sown after the winter, can grow in the short northern summers. Even in very dry countries, barley is preferred over wheat because it doesn’t require a lot of water and it is tolerant of high temperatures. In fact, barley grows quickly even if sown in the autumn, because it knows how to effectively use the smaller amounts of water available.
There are two types of barley: the two-row and the six-row. Two-row barley is characterized by a head with a flattened spike, because only two of the spikelets are fertile. It is most commonly used to produce malt, which is then used in food and for livestock. Instead, the head of the six-row barley has a cylindrical spike because all spikelets are fertile. It is most commonly used for roasting, but it is also an excellent for food. Like Spelt, Barley grains can be "dressed" or “naked”. “dressed” barley have a well-developed outer shell, that encases the seed, whereas the “naked” varieties lose their covering during the threshing process.
MAIA offers three types of barley: hulled barley, pearl barley and naked barley.
Hulled barley is very rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, because the the glumes and part of the husk have been removed.
Pearl barley has been further processed to completely remove the husk and also the outer part of the kernel, making it more digestible and easier to cook. It does not require soaking prior to cooking.
The naked barley that we offer, is an ancient Italian variety called "Rondo", historically grown in the central region of the Apennine Mountains and is characterized as having a low production rate, however excellent quality. It has excellent organoleptic and nutritional properties and is rich in β-glucans.
Barley is distinguishable from other cereal grains for its remarkable fiber content, especially soluble fiber. β-glucans are the main components of soluble fiber, which actively reduces cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Barley has a low glycemic index. along with oats, is the cereal with the lowest glycemic index. Contains calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and B vitamins, is also rich in tocols, natural antioxidants that help to counteract the action of free radicals. Barley puffs up a lot while it cooks. Because of this and its significant amount of fiber, soups made with barley, are very filling and low in calories. After rice, this cereal grain is the most easily digestible and is recommended for women who are breastfeeding as it promotes the quality of the milk.
How to use it
Pearl barley is best suited for stews and easy to prepare soups, while hulled and naked barley are better when you also add legumes in soups, because their cooking times are similar. Naked barley is the best for preparing salads, because it remains quite “al dente”, or chewy, even after being cooked. Also hulled barley is a great choice for salads. Pearl barley is suitable for preparing savoury pies and casseroles, or dishes in which the barley has to become very compact.
Basic recipe: after you have thoroughly cleaned and washed the grains, the hulled and naked barley need to soak for at least 4 hours, prior to cooking, and then 60 minutes to cook. Pearl barley, on the other hand, cooks in 45-60 minutes, and doesn’t need to previously soak in water.
Barley with prunes
Ingredients (makes 4 servings): 200 g barley, salt, 100 g prunes, 300 g sweet peppers, basil and 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley, 1 sachet of saffron, extra virgin olive oil
Cooking Instructions: cook the barley according to the basic recipe. Let the prunes soften in cold water for at least half an hour and then gently cook them for a few minutes in the same water they were soaking in. After cooking in this water for a few minutes, remove the prunes, and add the peppers, that you must previously have cleaned, and cut into thin strips. There doesn’t need to be a lot of water in the pan, just enough to cover them, so that they do not stick to the pan. Season the cooked prunes with the parsley, basil and saffron. Once the barley has finished cooking, add in the prune mixture. When the peppers have finished cooking, add them to the seasoned barley as well. Once everything is mixed together, heat it up on the burner one more time, and then this masterpiece is ready to serve.
Savory barley and vegetable pie
Ingredients (makes 4 servings): 300 g barley, 4 artichokes, 300 g carrots, 200 g chickpeas, 1 egg, 100 ml vegetable stock, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, 3 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon bread crumbs, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 bay leaf 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 40 g butter, 1 lemon, salt and pepper
Cooking Instructions: boil the barley with the bay leaf, 1 clove of garlic and a pinch of salt. Boil the chickpeas. Grate the carrots in julienne style, and cook them for 5 minutes in a pot with 2 tablespoons oil, 1 clove of garlic and a little salt. Peel the artichokes and finely slice them, then cook them for 10 minutes in a pan with the remaining oil and garlic, salt and a little vegetable stock. Remove from heat and add the carrots, 20 g of butter and chopped parsley. Blend the chickpeas in a blender, and put them in a bowl, adding the drained barley, Parmesan cheese, egg, salt and pepper, and mix well. Place 1 / 3 of mixture in the bottom of a mold, about 24 cm in diameter. Cover this layer with half of the artichokes and carrots mixture, followed by another layer of the chickpeas and barley and continue layering until all the ingredients have been used, ending with the chickpeas and barley mixture as the top layer. Sprinkle breadcrumbs, and the remaining butter in flakes on the top layer and cook in the over, pre-heated to 180 ° C for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let it stand briefly and serve.
Ingredients (makes 4 servings): 450 g zucchini, 150 g barley, 1 eggplant, 50 g Emmenthal cheese, thyme, 1 clove of garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
Cooking Instructions: cook the barley according to the basic recipe. Drain and cover with lightly salted cold water to stop the cooking. Clean the zucchini: trim and wash them and cut them lengthwise. Use a spoon to carve out the white inner zucchini pulp, and chop it up with a knife. Place the hollowed-out zucchini into a saucepan of boiling salted water and boil for 3-4 minutes (do not overcook, you want the zucchini to be, “al dente” or somewhat hard). After the 3-4 minutes, take the zucchini from the water and set them on a cooking tray and let them cool. In the meantime, clean the eggplant and cut it into small cubes. Heat up some olive oil in a frying pan, and lightly brown the peeled garlic clove. Then, add the eggplant cubes and chopped previously zucchini pulp. Brown everything well. Cook for about 5 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Finally, add the pearl barley and cook for 3 minutes. Add finely chopped thyme, mix well and turn off the burner. Cut the Emmenthal cheese in (not too big,) regular-sized cubes, and add them to the pan. Mix well and set aside the filling. Fill the hollowed and boiled zucchinis with the barley, vegetables and Emmenthal filling. With the left over filling, create a bed on the bottom of the plates, and lay out the stuffed zucchinis on top. Finally sprinkle the plates with finely chopped thyme and serve immediately.
Barley with broccoletti
Ingredients (makes 4 servings): 300 g barley, 1 zucchini, 1 carrot, 500 g broccoletti, 2 fresh onions, 200 g cherry tomatoes, 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt
Cooking Instructions: cook the barley according to the basic recipe. Skin and trim the carrot, cut the off the ends of the broccoletti and divide them into tops. Wash and boil them with the carrots for 5 minutes and then drain them. Cut the zucchini into sticks and slice the carrot. Chop the onions into circles and the tomatoes into wedges. Sautee all of the vegetables in oil for 3-4 minutes. When they start to warm up, add the barley (which has been previously cooled in cold water and then drained) and sautee. Transfer everything to a bowl, stir and serve.
Timbale of barley with mushrooms and potatoes in tomato sauce
Ingredients (makes 4 servings): 200 g barley, 300 g honey mushrooms, 200 g potatoes, 3 tablespoons of pureed tomatoes, 10 g parsley, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, 1 sprig of thyme, 100 ml white wine, white pepper, salt
Cooking Instructions: clean the honey mushrooms, and peel and dice the potatoes. Cook the barley according to the basic recipe. Preheat the oven to 180 ° C. In a skillet, sautee the peeled and crushed garlic cloves with olive oil. Add the mushrooms and diced potatoes, turn up the heat and continue to sautée for a couple of minutes. Add salt and pepper, remove the garlic and then sprinkle with some wine. Add the tomato puree and cook for 20 minutes. Add the drained barley to the the potatoes and mushroom sauce. Mix well, add the thyme leaves and divide it into small baking tins. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and serve.
Barley with fillet of sturgeon
Ingredients (makes 4 servings): 300 g pearl barley, 200 g fillet of sturgeon, ½ chopped onion, 1 bunch of fresh herbs (thyme, basil, parsley, sage and rosemary), 100 ml white wine, broth, 60 grams butter, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
Cooking Instructions: on low heat, lightly sautèe the onion with the 20 grams of butter and half of the bunch of herbs. Add the barley and let it roast for at least 1-2 minutes. Add a dash of white wine, and gradually add the hot broth, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Shortly before it has finished cooking, mix in the remaining herbs, that have been finely chopped. In the meantime, wash the fillet of sturgeon in cold water, dry it and cut it into fairly small pieces. Put them in a non-stick pan, that has been brushed with oil and sautèe them for 2-3 minutes, letting them lightly brown on all sides. Season it with a pinch of salt and a handful of pepper. Add the remaining butter to the barley, making it creamy, and then add the hot sturgeon. Serve immediately.
Sweet and sour barley and seafood salad
Ingredients (makes 4 servings): 300 g barley, 400 g cuttlefish, 1 sprig of parsley, 400 g octopus, 400 g monkfish fillets, 400 g squid, 300 g prawns, 50 ml white wine vinegar, 2 sweet peppers, 2 cloves of garlic, extra virgin olive oil, 10 g sugar, salt and pepper
Cooking Instructions: cook the barley according to the basic recipe. Clean the cuttlefish, squid and octopus and boil them for 20 minutes. Boil the fish fillets for 15 minutes and the shrimp for 5 minutes, then drained everything. Cut the molluscs into strips and the monkfish into cubes. De-shell the shrimp and put it all into a salad bowl. Then season it with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, minced garlic and parsley, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper and stir. Saute the peppers, cut into strips, in a pan with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and add the mixture of sugar, vinegar and salt. Let it evaporate and turn off the heat. Season the barley with the remaining oil, and then add it, along with the peppers to the salad bowl with the seafood and serve.
Barley with endives
Ingredients (makes 4 servings): 300 g hulled barley, 2 heads of endive, 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, 1 lemon and some lemon balm leaves, 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt
Cooking Instructions: clean and skin the carrot, and then wash and dry it. Peel the onion and clean the celery, trimmed, removing its strings, and then washing and drying it. Chop the carrot, onion and celery. Boil the chopped vegetables and the barley (previously soked) in lightly salted water for 60 minutes. In the meantime, wash the endive, dry it and cut it into strips. About 10 minutes before the barley finishes cooking, add the endives. When the barley is cooked, add some salt and then drain the barley and the endives, setting aside a bit of the cooking broth. Put the barley and endives in a salad bowl, sprinkle with the grated lemon zest, drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil and serve at room temperature garnished with lemon balm leaves.
Orzotto with chickpeas
Ingredients (makes 4 servings): 300 g naked barley, 150 g chickpeas, 1 bay leaf, ½ onion, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 celery stalk, 1 carrot, 30 g of grated parmesan cheese, 1 liter of vegetable broth, 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
Cooking Instructions: prepare a mixture of chopped celery, carrot and onion and sautee it in a non-stick frying pan with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Then add the barley and chick peas, which have been previously soaked, and let them simmer together. Cook them for 60 minutes, adding a bay leave and a slice of onion and gradually mixing in the broth, little by little. When it finishes cooking, add salt, and transfer the mixture to a soup tureen. Garnish with two tablespoons of olive oil, the grated Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of ground pepper and serve.
Barley with shallots, potatoes and almonds
Ingredients (makes 4 servings): 300 g pearl barley, 6 shallots, 2 yellow potatoes, 80 g sliced almonds, 1 sprig of parsley, 1.5 liter vegetable stock, 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 40 grams of grated Parmesan, salt and pepper
Cooking Instructions: peel the shallots and cut them into wedges, peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes. In 4 tablespoons of olive oil, sautee the shallots. Add the rinsed and drained barley and the potatoes and let them briefly simmer together. Just barely cover the mixture with boiling broth, add some salt and continue cooking it for 40 minutes, gradually pouring broth as needed. When it is finished cooking, add the chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese. Mix well, and pour the barley into molds. Lightly toast the almonds in the remaining oil, and let them cool on baking paper. Turn over the barley molds onto the plate, sprinkle each serving with slices of almonds and a slight pinch of pepper and serve.