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Bring on the barley

RecipeSwap: Wild Rice, Barley and Fruit Salad, Easy Cabbage Casserole, Prairie Streusel-Topped Cake

book cover

Anita Stewart, a well-known food writer in Canada, has high praise for a new barley cookbook. She calls it “a glimpse into the future of the food life of North America.”

Go Barley: Modern Recipes for an Ancient Grain, with 100-plus recipes, was released this spring, written by home economists Pat Inglis and Linda Whitworth, who is also the market development manager with the Alberta Barley Commission.

Interest in barley is intensifying as we turn our attention to more whole grains and ancient grains, plus spreading awareness about barley’s health benefits, say the two women who were in Winnipeg last week to promote their book.

“There’s been such a huge opportunity to move it up the ranks, ” said Linda Whitworth.

There’s plenty of reasons to eat more barley. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals, many of the amino acids that make up protein. It helps stabilize blood sugar and makes us feel full. Its fibre has been proven to help lower cholesterol. Barley earned approval from Health Canada in 2012 for a health claim.

“All the dietitians we talk to say barley is just surging forward,” says Linda.

That’s good news for a crop Canadians now consume just a tiny fraction of as food. About 80 per cent grown here is used in livestock feed, and the rest is used for malt. Less than one per cent is consumed as food.

We don’t eat anything just because it’s good for us, though. Barley has also been rediscovered by cooks and chefs who love its taste, full rich texture and all the ways it can be used.

“Barley was full of surprises for me,” says Pat, a former food editor for the Montreal Gazette who developed recipes for Go Barley.

“I started out, unfortunately, with a very pedestrian image of barley and I didn’t realize the full potential. The more I worked with it, I found it is so compatible with flavours.”

Pearl and pot barley absorbs flavours while the slightly nutty-tasting flour is perfect with spices and chocolate, she said.

“There’s no lack of good recipes, that’s for sure.”

And while barley has had a reputation in the past as poor man’s food, making a household food dollar go further is now a sought-after attribute.

“Barley is very affordable,” she said. “And it helps to extend foods. It makes a little bit of meat go a lot further.”

But don’t think this is a cookbook full of stew recipes. Go Barley will have you eating barley at every meal of the day, from a barley granola for breakfast to fruit- and nut-filled salads for lunch, plus chowders and soups, and casseroles and jambalayas as main dishes. And what do Alberta beef producers think of the mushroom barley burgers? No word on that just yet, says Linda, with a laugh.

Go Barley: Modern Recipes for an Ancient Grain (TouchWood Editions, 245 pages, $29.95) is now available in local book stores.

Wild Rice, Barley and Fruit Salad

Here’s the perfect salad to bring to a potluck supper. It can be made ahead, and it’s easy to transport.

  • 1 c. pecans
  • 1 c. pot or pearl barley
  • 1/4 c. wild rice
  • 4-1/2 c. water
  • 3/4 c. brown rice
  • 1 orange
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 3/4 c. dried apricots, chopped
  • 3/4 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c. orange juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 c. chopped parsley

wild_rice_barley_fruit_salad-RGBPreheat oven to 350 F. On an ungreased baking pan, spread pecans evenly. Bake for five minutes, then coarsely chop and set aside. Rinse barley and wild rice under cold running water; drain. In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring measured water to a boil and stir in wild rice and barley. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover pan and cook for 35 minutes. Add brown rice, then cover pan and simmer for another 25 minutes. Cool. Peel and seed the orange and cut it into small pieces. In a large bowl, mix orange pieces, green onions, apricots, and cranberries with barley rice mixture. In a small bowl, combine orange juice, garlic, vinegar, and mustard. Whisk in oil as well as salt and pepper to taste. Toss dressing with barley mixture; sprinkle with toasted pecans and parsley.

Makes 10 servings.

Source: Go Barley: Modern Recipes for an Ancient Grain

Easy Cabbage Casserole

This casserole has all the flavours of cabbage rolls without the work. Shredded cabbage is layered with a mixture of ground beef and barley in tomato sauce. It’s served topped with sour cream and chopped green onions.

  • 1-1/2 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 c. pot or pearl barley
  • 1 can (14 oz./398ml) tomato sauce
  • 1-2/3 c. water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 4 c. shredded cabbage
  • 6 tbsp. sour cream
  • 6 tsp. chopped green onions

Prairie Streusel-Topped Cake

This is a perfect cake for using midsummer-ready saskatoons and rhubarb.


  • 3/4 c. whole barley flour
  • 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 4-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 c. butter or margarine
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 4 c. saskatoon berries
  • 1 c. sliced fresh (or frozen and thawed) rhubarb


  • 3/4 c. whole barley flour
  • 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c. butter or margarine
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

prairie_streusel_topped_cake-RGBPreheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the barley flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, cream butter or margarine and sugar. Beat in eggs and milk. Gradually stir in dry ingredients. When mixed, pour batter into the baking dish. Sprinkle saskatoon berries and rhubarb over top of batter. To make topping, combine the barley flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, butter or margarine, and cinnamon in a small bowl using a pastry blender or fingertips. Sprinkle evenly over top of the cake batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes.

Source: Go Barley: Modern Recipes for an Ancient Grain

About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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