Whether you’re a meat eater or not, this salad will suit everyone! I’m always trying to eat more meat-free meals. So when I had to start thinking about what I was going to serve for the up and coming Christmas season, I wanted to have a vegan option on the table. This was certainly an experiment for many members of my family. I come from a long line of hardcore meat eaters. So I went in with the idea of “what they don’t know can’t hurt them”. It worked! The mix of hearty mushroom, pearly barely and thyme works so well plus the added bonus of crispy garlic and shallots… YUM! There was not a lot of leftovers after my Christmas lunch (which is a great compliment but leftovers for lunch the next day is awesome) but there was a small serve of this salad left for me to take to work the next day. If anything it tasted better. All the mushroom juices soaked into the pearl barely, kinda making a risotto-like meal. It was delicious.
I’ve found that pearl barely isn’t an ingredient used a lot these days. It’s never really become as trendy as say… quinoa. Which is really a shame since its so nutritionally beneficial. Plus it’s super cheap! It’s a great grain to use when making soups, stews and casseroles to bulk out a meal and stretch a dollar and of course in salads such as this. Pearl barely could also be a healthy swap for white rice which is awesome. It has more fiber per equal serve than quinoa or brown rice and of course, fiber is so important for gut and bowel health and weight loss or weight management. It also provides a huge range of important vitamins and minerals from copper, vitamin B1 and B3, magnesium… The list goes on. So really I’m basically saying getting this stuff into your diet is a good thing.
A meat-free side that could easily be a main also.
- 1 1/2 cups pearl barley
- 3/4 cups vegetable stock
- 5 cups mixed mushrooms
- 3 cloves garlic finely sliced
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 medium shallot finely sliced
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a saucepan place pearl barely and vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and place lid on top. Cook barley for 50-60 minutes or until fully cooked, checking fluid level occasionally. Once cooked let the barely slightly cool.
- In a wok style pan, heat olive oil. Add sliced shallots and garlic and fry until crispy.
- Place shallots and garlic on some paper towel to drain any extra oil.
- In the same pan add the mixed mushrooms ( I used oyster, button, and Swiss brown) and cook for 5 minutes or until mushrooms are fully cooked. For the last minute of cooking add the fresh thyme
- In a separate dry pan, toast the pine nuts. This does not take long so keep your eye on them.
- To assemble salad spread the barely across a platter, then top with mushrooms and pine nuts. Last is the crispy shallots and garlic then add salt and pepper to taste.
To reduce the length of time required to cook the pearl barley, place it in a bowl and cover with water. Soak barely for 4-6 hours before cooking.