Because no single way of eating works for everybody.
It comes… to suck your blood!
Okay, not your blood – though it’s better for your blood sugar than wheat is. If you can tolerate grains, barley isn’t a bad occasional addition to your diet, since it hasn’t quite been cross-bred beyond all recognition the way wheat has. Barley has only been bred for a few variations, and is one of the first known grains grown as a crop. And of course it’s used to make my country’s National Beverage, beer. 🙂
So why do I call it the Vampire Grain?
I’ll tell you why: because it sucks every last ounce of freaking flavour out of my soups and stews.
For years I’ve been trying to make beef barley soup, especially since my husband is so fond of it. I’ve tried recipe after recipe. They’re all basically the same: simmer the uncooked barley in the broth, along with the beef and onions and carrots and celery and herbs and spices. I did all that. I even added extra onions, and garlic, and herbs and spices. I added hot sauce, chili peppers, fresh herbs, dried herbs, smoked paprika… I put in everything but pepper-spray!
And they all turned out so bland as to be nearly tasteless.
Then one day – the day I made a pot-roast with a handful of barley in the broth, and the roast came out almost flavourless – I realized where all these recipes were steering me wrong.
It was the barley. Putting uncooked barley into simmered dishes cooks the barley, all right; but the barley, in turn, sucks up the flavours of the ingredients, and neutralizes them for its own nefarious purposes.
And unlike ordinary vampires, it’s not afraid of garlic.
So here is the solution. If you’re making a dish that needs barley – say, beef barley soup – cook the barley separately. It doesn’t matter much whether you cook it in water or soup stock. It’ll just taste like cooked barley, which is to say, like not much of anything; it enhances the soup with its chewy texture, and that’s its purpose. The rest of your soup will taste like ingredients. Delicious, flavourful ingredients.
And you will have defeated Dracubarley, the Flavour-Sucking Undead.
Beef Barley Soup that Keeps the Vampires Away
1 or 2 Tablespoons oil (I use coconut oil)
1 large onion, diced
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic (if desired)
2 or 3 carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 potatoes, diced
8 cups beef stock or broth
1 or 2 teaspoons dried (or 1 or 2 Tablespoons fresh) herbs of your choice, if desired (thyme and basil go well in this recipe)
salt and pepper, to taste
several dashes hot sauce, to taste, if desired
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1 large lump of cooked beef, diced to desired size
1/3 cup uncooked barley
2/3 cup peas, cooked (they taste better when added cooked, at the end, than when simmered with the other vegetables)
1. Cook barley in water or beef stock until desired tenderness is reached. At the same time, cook peas in water until done.
2. While barley and peas are cooking, heat oil in large pot. Sauté onions, garlic and celery in oil over medium heat until they begin to soften. Add carrots and sauté a few minutes more.
3. Add potatoes, beef stock, herbs, salt, pepper, hot sauce, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until carrots and potatoes are tender.
4. Stir in ketchup, beef, cooked barley, and cooked peas. Heat until thoroughly warm. Serve and enjoy.