Learning how to cook barley is not difficult, even if you have never cooked with it before. When you boil barley in water for a long time, the barley becomes what is known as “keratinized.” In other words, the barley starves to death and must be cooked quickly. Once cooked, the water turns to chalk and the barley is left with the good bacteria (beneficial microorganisms) that live in the intestine.
To use barley (which you could get at most health food shops) in place of whole wheat in any dish, boost the flavor and add more carbohydrates. Barley is a high source of dietary fiber (one tablespoon cooked with 13 grams) – a benefit that many people do not consider until they try to cook with it. Barley is also a very rich source of zinc, iron and copper – vital nutrients that must be included in your diet. Barley has been the inspiration for beer and ale for thousands of years. In fact, barley was the main ingredient in beer and most European beer was in fact created from barley flour.
How to cook barley is also as easy as frying or baking it. Usually, all you need is a single grain of barley to create a light and tasty treat. You can cook the barley with water to make a hearty and nutritious meal or grind it into a fine flour to make a delicious breakfast cereal. There are several ways to cook with barley, but if you want to see the best results, use the tougher, hulled variety. The reason for the tougher exterior is that this grain is actually stronger than wheat (and wheat is probably the hardest grain you can cook with). Also, the longer cooking creates an incredibly tender chewable piece of bread.
The other two main varieties of barley are red and pearl. Although most of us think of pearl barley when we think of whole food, this is not always the case. They are both edible, but just have different characters. Consider which one you prefer.
To cook barley, start by cooking the barley in a pan over low heat. Add some liquid such as water or stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover for about half an hour or so and then add the liquids and bring to a gentle boil again. Cover for another half hour and continue to cook until the barley is almost done. If it is done, remove from the heat and allow to cool down.
The second option for cooking with barley is to use a pressure cooker. Place one cup of dry grains in a covered container and add a teaspoon of salt and a quarter cup of hot water. Cover the lid and set for an hour or so, uncovered. In an hour or so, remove the lid and place the grains in a covered pot, allowing them to soak through.
During the final cooking stages, drain the liquid through a strainer and pour it back into the pot. This should rinse thoroughly, being sure to rinse out all the salt and particles. Use a metal strainer to rinse any solids that were left behind in the last rinse. After this step, add a quarter teaspoon of dried thyme, a quarter teaspoon of dried sage, and a quarter teaspoon of dried bay leaves and grind them up. Add these ingredients to the pot and let them steep for about five minutes.
When the mixture has completely brewed, use a ladle to transfer it into a wide sauce pan and bring to a gentle boil. Allow the pot to simmer, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching. If desired, add a bit of sugar or honey to the boiling process. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly, then serve. Stored in an airtight container, the barley can be kept for up to one year.