Canada's homegrown superfood: Barley three ways

Black bean barley salad. (GoBarley.com)

Black bean barley salad. (GoBarley.com)

Rita DeMontis, National Food Editor, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

Barley...for breakfast? How about a snack? Dessert? Definitely as the main event of any supper table. (And let's not forget barley's crucial role in creating beer!)

So — when was the last time you thought about tucking into such a comforting grain? Barley is homegrown — and it's good. And it's now being heralded as a new superfood: Research shows the health benefits are amazing — barley, already celebrated for being very high in fibre, has been proven to lower cholesterol. In fact, last year, barley was approved for a health claim by Health Canada, which states that eating this grain helps reduce blood cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease. This chewy little grain also helps you feel fuller, so you're not grabbing for empty snacks to fill your food cravings. Barley is also Canada’s third largest crop, after wheat and canola. While grown throughout Canada, Alberta produces the most barley of all the provinces. I'm sure the most popular barley you're familiar with is the delicate pearl, but there's also pot barley as well as barley flakes and even flour.

It has such a wonderfully nutty flavour and terrific mouth feel. I've always enjoyed it in hearty soups and it's the perfect stand-in for risotto. But how about in a yogurt parfait, muffins, cookies and even salads. A delicate dessert to end your meal. All good — and good for you. The following recipes are courtesy of GoBarley.com; check them out for additional recipes and ideas.

Black Bean Barley Salad

  • 2 tsp. (10 ml) canola oil
  • ½ cup (125 ml) pot or pearl barley
  • 2 cups (500 ml) vegetable stock or water
  • 1 (540 ml) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup (125 ml) corn kernels
  • ¼ cup (50 ml) chopped chives
  • 3 Tbsp. (45 ml) lime juice
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • ½ tsp. (2 ml) salt
  • ¼ tsp. (1 ml) pepper
  • Lettuce
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

In a medium saucepan, heat oil. Add barley and sauté 3 minutes. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook 30 minutes; drain and cool. In a large bowl, combine cooked barley, beans, yellow pepper, tomatoes, corn and chives. In a small bowl combine lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper; pour over barley mixture and toss. Serve on lettuce topped with shredded cheese. Serves 4.

Shrimp and Pea Barley “Risotto”

  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. (5 ml) grated lemon rind
  • ¼ tsp. (1 ml) pepper
  • 1 cup (250 ml) pot or pearl barley
  • 4 cups (1L) low salt chicken broth
  • 12 oz (350 g) peeled and deveined raw shrimp
  • 1 cup (250 ml) frozen peas
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) chopped fresh parsley

In a large saucepan, heat oil; sauté and stir onion, garlic, lemon rind and pepper until onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in barley and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring vigorously halfway through for 15 seconds. Stir in shrimp and peas; cover and simmer until shrimp are pink and peas are tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley. Serves 4.

Pineapple Barley Mousse

  • 2 cups (500 ml) pot or pearl barley
  • 7 cups (1.75 L) water
  • 1 (102 g) pkg. instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 cups (500 ml) milk
  • 1 (250 g) pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (398 ml) can crushed pineapple
  • 1 ½ cups (375 ml) whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) icing sugar
  • ¼ tsp. (1 ml) vanilla or rum extract
  • Banana, kiwi, mandarin orange segments, raspberries

In a large saucepan, combine barley and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer; cover and cook for 40 minutes; drain and chill. Prepare pudding mix with milk, following package directions. Beat softened cream cheese until smooth. Fold in pudding mix, undrained crushed pineapple and cooked barley. Whip cream, adding icing sugar and vanilla or rum; fold into cream cheese mixture. Spoon into serving dishes and garnish with fresh fruit. Makes 12 servings.


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