The Cooking Chronicles: Adventures with Quick-Cook Barley

When we visited Mary Ellen and Andreas in the spring, they introduced us to quick-cook barley, a product by Progressive Foods (it is available from Mo Na Foods at the City Market). Mary Ellen said the barley, developed so it could be prepared in a short amount of time, could be used in place of rice in any recipe.

Though I don’t eat rice as often as I used to, it is still a staple in my kitchen. That said, barley is undoubtedly healthier than white rice, so I was more than happy to explore this alternative.

Quick-cook Barley

Quick-cook barley

The Progressive Foods website has a great collection of recipes, and one that would likely quickly inspire a more experienced cook for the myriad uses of barley. As an amateur cook, I took to the recipes like a moth to a flame.

Our barley adventures started with plain barley, cooked with water, a splash of stock, finished with some butter, salt and pepper. We wanted to be able to taste the texture and the natural flavour of the barley. We found the barley to be slightly chewy, and unfortunately, not great at soaking up sauce when cooked in this manner. It definitely tasted healthier than plain white rice though, but for that particular dish (fish prepared en papillote), we would probably opt for rice next time.

Sole en papillote with quick-cook barley

After that, we tried the barley risotto, using onions and a basket of mixed Mo Na wild mushrooms for flavour. It was delicious, and was Mack’s favourite barley recipe – the additional cooking time, simmering in stock, softened the barley. Also, between the onions, velvety mushrooms, and barley, the variety of textures made the dish very pleasant to eat.

Quick-cook barley mushroom risotto with roasted Edgar Farms asparagus (clearly, this is a dated post – back when Edgar Farms still had asparagus, and back when we were still in the apartment)

The barley jambalaya was my favourite. It helped that is was a one-pot dish, and one that was bursting with vegetables – carrots, tomatoes, celery, bell peppers – really, whatever’s available in the crisper (the addition of Irvings sausage didn’t hurt either). Hearty and flavourful, the jambalaya was even better for lunch the next day. In later versions, we found corn to be a sweet addition, also great for colour.

Quick-cook barley jambalaya with sausage

We’ve used the barley quite a bit since our initial experiments, having made the jambalaya a few times over for quick weeknight suppers. The quick-cook barley is a welcome addition to our pantry!