Barley Converts

Barley Pilaf
Yield: 6-8 Servings

Barley Pilaf

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups hulless barley, rinsed, soaked in water to cover overnight and drained*
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup dried morel mushrooms, soaked in hot water to cover for 30 minutes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup morel soaking water
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • *Soaking the barley for several hours or overnight means it will cook more quickly on the stove. Unsoaked barley can take over an hour to cook.

Instructions

  1. Combine soaked, drained barley, 4 cups water, and salt in a medium saucepan, covered. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until soft but still chewy, about 40 minutes.
  2. While barley is cooking, toast hazelnuts in a dry frying pan, over medium heat, for 5 minutes, until just beginning to turn golden. Cool, rub in a tea towel to remove some of the skins, and coarsely chop. Reserve until later.
  3. Squeeze morel mushrooms to remove excess liquid, saving the liquid. Chop morels into chunks and reserve.
  4. In the same frying pan you used to toast the hazelnuts, melt butter and oil over medium heat. When it is shimmering, add onion and sauté, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in thyme, cinnamon and pepper.
  5. Add chopped morels to the pan and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add minced garlic and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.
  6. Pour in 1 cup of reserved morel soaking water and simmer until the liquid has almost entirely evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in hazelnuts and chopped apricots.
  8. Once barley is thoroughly cooked, drain and return to heat. Stir in onion, morel, hazelnut and apricot mixture, until thoroughly combined.
  9. Just before transferring to a serving dish, stir in lemon juice and all but 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley. Sprinkle remaining parsley over top, once pilaf is in a serving dish.

My old friend Julie called to me from the back of her car, where she’d just finished loading her groceries. I waited, one hand on my shopping cart, until she caught up to me.

“I’ve been giving my friends bags of the local barley,” she said excitedly. “But they keep asking me what to do with it. I wondered if you would consider sharing a recipe in one of your columns.”

“On it,” I said.

The local barley that Julie (and I) are so excited about is grown by Hinterland Flour Mills, owned and operated by Trevor and Marie Amiot. The Amiots harvest barley and hard red spring wheat on 400 acres, not far from Whitehorse, milling the grain themselves and selling an array of products, such as breakfast cereals and cookie, pancake and cake mixes, as well as flours and whole grains in Yukon grocery stores.

Their barley is of the hulless variety: a strain where the hull is so loosely attached to the grain that it falls off during harvesting, making processing much easier. The Amiots are as excited as Julie and I are about the joys and benefits of eating this versatile, healthful grain and extolling its virtues on the company website. Recently, Trevor Amiot pointed me to an excellent online resource for barley recipes: gobarley.com. But he also gave me a simple tip: use barley instead of rice in any of your favourite rice recipes.

Rice pilaf is one of my favourite side dishes for wild meat; picking up on Amiot’s suggestion, I conjured up a combination of mushrooms, nuts and dried fruit that might complement the nutty taste and chewy texture of barley and stand up to the strong flavours of moose, bison or caribou.

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