Barley is used world wide as a staple grain. It is used to ferment beer and other malt beverages. It is also polished into porcelain-like ivory pearls that can be used as substitutes for wheat and rice in culinary recipes. Cooked barley has a mild nutty taste and a chewy texture. Barley pearls soak up the richness of the flavor of food, making it an ideal ingredient for soups and stews. Pearled barley can be further processed to make hot cereals that are similar to oatmeal.
Why Have Barley?
Barley is gaining in popularity as a health food. It is nutritiously dense with 8 essential amino acids and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Barley’s special composition of beta-glucans, niacin, folate and vitamin B6 gives it tremendous cholesterol lowering ability. Barley is also rich in B vitamins that promote faster metabolism and more efficient energy production.
People with weight issues and diabetes can also benefit from eating barley. Barley has the highest fiber content among all grains, providing 6 grams of fiber in every cup after cooking. Increased fiber consumption can inhibit the delivery of glucose into your blood. Studies have shown that having barley can help reduce your blood sugar for up to 10 hours after consumption, which is much long than if you eat wheat or rice.
Barley also helps you recover faster after surgery or trauma. Its high content of folate, iron and copper can effectively replenish your red blood cell count, giving you body better oxygenation. With increased oxygen delivery, you will feel more energized, mentally alert and less susceptible to anaerobic microbial infections.
Cooking Barley Hot Cereal
Barley cereal flakes look similar to rolled oats, and you would cook it just as you would oatmeal. Bring 2 cups of water to boil for every cup of barley flakes. Simmer for about 2 to 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and let it sit for another 2 to 3 minutes before serving. To improve the taste, cook the cereal with 1 or 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts or almond flakes, a handful of raisins or fresh blueberries. You can also stir in extra honey to sweeten the taste.
Of course, you are not restricted to just water. Using milk, soy milk or almond milk instead during the cooking process makes the cereal much more satisfying for a highly nutritious breakfast.
Pearled Barley Preparation
Cooking pearled barley is just as easy, but it can take quite some time. You should soak the pearls for 2 hours or overnight to reduce the cooking time. Bring 3 cups of water to boil for every cup of barley pearls. Simmer covered for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the pearls are plump and tender.
You are welcome to use vegetable, chicken or beef broth instead of water during cooking for richer taste. You can also cook soaked barley pearls with your beef stew for a complete main dish.