Lately I’ve been using often-overlooked grains that belong outside of the usual wheat and rice varieties. Add generous quantities of anything that adds big, bright flavour to a dish—coriander, chilli or lemon juice say—and the humble and unappealingly earnest grain is suddenly interesting. Barley (cebada in Castilian, ordí in Catalan) is one of my favourites. I like the nutty taste and the soft, comforting yield of the grain once it is cooked. It also soaks up other flavours brilliantly.
Serves four as a side dish, two as a main.
- 200g whole barley (available in most health food shops)
- 800ml water
- 1 aubergine, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 20 mixed variety cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 large handful of coriander and/or mint leaves, roughly chopped
- 3 bay leaves
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
For the dressing
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1-2 tsp hot harissa (if you can’t get harissa, use half chilli powder and half pimentón, the smoked version works great)
- Preheat oven to 200oC, toss the aubergine, tomatoes and bay leaves in olive oil, sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste and roast for 25-30 minutes or until golden.
- Whisk all the dressing ingredients together and let the flavours develop while the rest is cooking.
- Place the barley in a pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer for another 25 minutes until the barley is just tender and the water has nearly evaporated.
- Take off the heat, pop on the lid and leave to steam for another 5-10 minutes.
- To assemble the salad, take a large bowl and toss together the barley, tomatoes and aubergines (discard the bay leaves).
- Add the raw onion and the herbs. Drizzle over with the dressing.
- Toss one last time and serve. It goes well with a side of grilled meats and lasts, covered, in the fridge for a couple of days.
Tara Stevens is a food writer and cook who splits her time between Barcelona and her little cooking school in the Fez Medina. Passionate about Spanish and Moroccan cuisine, she takes traditional recipes and gives them a modern makeover using local and seasonal ingredients.