This recipe is a bit different from my usual offerings – not a chickpea or a lump of cheese in sight! Instead, I decided to embrace the looming autumn with earthy roasted beetroot, carrots and leeks. It just goes to show that I should try new things more often, because this pearl barley and roasted beetroot salad was one of the best dishes I’ve made in ages. Heaps of roasted vegetables, with a sweet and sticky maple balsamic dressing, hearty pearl barley, and a scattering of chopped walnuts for a bit of crunch. It made a really gorgeous dinner, but a smaller portion would be great as an appetiser too.
Pearl barley is new to me, though I’ve had the packet in the cupboard for months – probably even since last year (you can tell how often I clean out my cupboards…). I bought it on a whim, thinking it might be a welcome change to the usual rotation of pasta, potatoes, rice, pasta, potatoes, rice… But when I got it home I realised that the packet said it took 75 minutes to cook. An hour and a quarter. To cook a grain! Naturally this put me right off, so in the cupboard it stayed.
Buuuut, I’m really glad I finally decided to let it see the light of day, because in fact it was ready in only about 30 minutes – I genuinely have no idea what the packet was talking about. 30 minutes I can handle! So if you have a sad packet of barley in your cupboard like me, make sure you give it a try. Like most grains, it doesn’t have a huge amount of flavour on its own, so it’s easy to dress up however you please. I actually found the texture ever so slightly reminiscent of oats, but a bit more substantial.
Roasted beetroot is also fairly new to me – I don’t often use fresh beetroots. In the past I’ve been put off by the amount of clean up I foresaw (I had visions of me needing to wipe bright pink beetroot juice off the ceiling), but actually it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting – I definitely made a big pink mess on the chopping board, but it all washed off pretty easily. Another thing that was much less hassle than I thought it would be!
So if you’re scared of either pearl barley or beetroot… don’t be! Make this pearl barley and roasted beetroot salad instead.
Pearl barley and roasted beetroot salad with maple balsamic dressing
- 2 inch medium leeks trimmed and cut into 1 chunks
- 5 inch medium carrots halved lengthwise then cut into 2 chunks
- 4 fresh beetroot peeled and cut into wedges
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 3 tbsp maple syrup or honey
- Black pepper
- 100 g uncooked pearl barley
- 40 g walnuts coarsely chopped
- 30 g fresh rocket arugula
- Heat the oven to 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F). Place the prepared vegetables in a large roasting tray, and add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and plenty of salt and black pepper. Mix well with a spoon until evenly coated. Place in the oven and roast for around 1 and a half hours, or until soft and slightly crispy on the edges.
- An hour or so after putting the vegetables in the oven, put the pearl barley in a pan of water to boil - it will probably take around 30 minutes.
- When the pearl barley is cooked, drain it, and add the walnuts. Serve with the fresh rocket and roasted vegetables, drizzled with any excess dressing.