First posted: Jan 20, 2016

Toasted Barley, Spinach and Wild Mushroom Salad


I have always had a thing for barley. It’s nutty (but not overwhelmingly so), it’s budget friendly, it’s humble and wholesome (did you know that it was one of the world’s first cultivated grains, going as far back as 13,000 years?!), and I like to cook it so that it maintains a satisfying little al dente bite. Also, it’s the perfect blank canvas for balsamic mushrooms and a herby, creamy dressing. Bottle the salad up in a jar and take it to work for lunch, serve it alongside juicy steaks for your next braai, or make a deep, comforting bowl-full for a perfect fuss-free dinner. Whichever you choose, I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

You can also use barley to thicken soups and stews, and I even add it to my kids’ bolognaise (along with a handful of lentils for good measure) – they’re none the wiser and it makes good meat go further, and I get to feel smug, WIN! 🙂 Oh, and if it’s wintery where you are right now, why not try this Barley & Squash Risotto? It’s beautiful and creamy and full of goodness.



Cooks in:        Serves:4

Creamy Dressing
  • 1-2 Tbsp cultured cream
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp runny honey
  • Small handful parsley, roughly chopped
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 1 Tbsp butter

  • 1-2 tsp olive oil
  • 250g mixed wild mushrooms, roughly chopped or torn
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 100g baby spinach leaves, rinsed
  • 100g feta cheese
  • 1 Tbsp each chopped fresh mint, basil and parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

What to do

1. Prepare the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together. Taste and check for seasoning before serving.

2. Cook the barley according to the packet instructions. Drain and set aside.

3. To a large heavy-based pan over medium-high heat, add the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil and the butter. When the butter starts to foam, add the mushrooms and fry for 2–3 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the barley and allow to toast gently in the pan, then add in the 2 Tbsp of olive oil and the honey. Add the balsamic vinegar and simmer gently for a further minute or two before adding the spinach leaves. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir gently until the spinach leaves have wilted. Add everything to a suitable serving platter or bowl.

4. Crumble over the feta, as well as a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Serve with the dressing on the side.

Photo from 'Sarah Graham's Food Safari' by Ricardo de Leça.

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