I have talked about barley before because it is a grain I love. I could eat sweet and savory barley porridge bowls every day and not get tired of it.
For many (maybe you?), it is an uncommon grain that you may not have cooked with or tried before, but it has lots of advantages over other more popular options and is widely available across the world, often hidden in the healthy food shelves.
If you are a barley virgin, this is the chance to try out my complete savory barley porridge breakfast bowl recipe and be won over. Or try this sweet version with poached apples instead.
About barley and its origins
What is barley exactly and where does it come from?
Barley is a basic ingredient in breweries around the world as it is used to make beer. It is also a popular animal feed, widely grown across the world, from South Korea to Africa and the US. Lucky us, this means it is an affordable grain that can be easily found in supermarkets.
The origins of barley are unclear but we know that it is one of the ancient grains that has been around for a long time. Most importantly, we are certain that it is very good for you, which is why I love to use it as the base for my breakfast bowls.
If you have never bought barley before, you will realise that you can find two types of barley in the shops: hulled or pearled.
You can easily distinguish the two because pearl barley is, you guessed it, pearly, more rounded and polished while the hulled is rougher and more opaque because it still has the bran layer. In Asia, you will most likely find the pearled version, which is often sold as a “Chinese” variety. This Chinese pearl barley is even more round, polished and pearly.
I like both types of barley; the hulled one takes longer to cook (up to 10-15 min longer) but is healthier for you: it is less processed and it contains a higher percentage fiber and protein. Pearl barley is more refined in taste, much prettier and easier to find where I live.
In Asia, barley is also used to make a drink called barley water which is the result of boiling it with water and adding sugar and lemon to taste. Barley water is very popular across Southeast Asia and China and sold in convenience stores, supermarkets and restaurants.
The benefits of barley and this recipe
Barley’s main selling point is its high fiber content (17%), its low percentage of fat (2%) its wonderful nutty flavor. When I say it has a high percentage of fiber, I actually mean it has the highest percentage of fiber of all the grains.
Because it is a whole grain (especially the hulled version) it has a low glycemic index which means it will keep you full longer and slowly release the sugars into your blood stream so you don’t feel a rush followed by a crash.
But the benefit don’t end here.
There are lots of studies which have proven barley is great for cholesterol, to control insulin in diabetic patients, to protect against cancer, and a host of other diseases.
I am pretty sure I have already convinced you to try this barley porridge breakfast bowl. But the benefit don’t end with the grain, this bowl is topped with cauliflower, apples and an egg so you have a complete dish with fruits, vegetables, protein, fiber and complete carbs.
What I love about this barley porridge recipe
I love the creaminess of the egg yolk in this bowl, which is why I make my porridge dry so the yolk provides the porridge like consistency. However, you can cook the barley in a bit of extra coconut milk or water to make it runnier. I often do that when the weather is cold or I feel like a tummy-warming breakfast.
You might be surprised to add apple to this recipe but I think it goes great to add a crunch and freshness to an otherwise pretty creamy dish. I also recommend chopping he cauliflower quite small so that it acts as if it was a crunchy nut. Overall, I love the smoothness of the barley base, its chewiness and the contrast of savory and sweet. I hope you will like it too!
Recipe: Mushroom barley with apple and cauliflower
This earthy but fresh barley porridge bowl marries the crunch of the apples with the softness of the mushrooms. I also love the cauliflower which adds a bit of texture to the soft pearled barley. Add a soft-boiled egg on top for that extra creaminess that brings out the porridge flavor.
- 30 gr Pearl barley
- 150ml Water
- 1/4 Apple
- 100 gr Oyster mushroom
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of pepper
- 1 Egg
- 100 gr Cauliflower
- Pinch of rosemary
- 1 Tbsp Olive oil
- Pinch of Himalayan salt
- SOAK: I like to soak the pearl barley overnight so that it is softer and it cooks faster but it is not necessary and you can cook it straightaway.
- SIMMER: Bring the water to a boil and then add the barley in, lower the heat, cover and let it simmer for 25min. Keep checking it to make sure it does not run out of water. When soft, turn the heat off and let it rest for an additional 10min covered.
- CHOP: In the meantime, cut the mushrooms in equal sizes, cut the apple in cubes and chop the cauliflower in small pieces so it has a crunchy texture when cooked.
- SAUTEE: Heat olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped vegetables and apple. Sautee for 5min and then set aside.
- BOIL: Bring water to boil and when bubbling, add the egg and let it cook for exactly 5min. Drain and cool down. When cooled, peel the shell carefully and let it rest.
- MIX: Once the barley is ready, combine with the sauteed ingredients, add a pinch of salt, pepper and dried rosemary herbs and fold in for another 3-4min.
- ASSEMBLE: Pour the barley porridge in a bowl and place the egg on top, Slid the yolk and mix it all in to have a porridge-like consistency.
I like this (and other) savory breakfast barley porridge to be drier and for the porridge-like texture to come from the yolk. However, if you like for it to be a bit more porridge-like, you can add 50ml vegetable or chicken broth when you fold the barley in.
Alternative mushroom: I use oyster mushrooms because I like their clean earthy taste, but this recipe can be made with any mushroom type or blend, just make sure they are cut in similar sizes so they cook evenly.
Add a kick: I prefer not to have garlic for breakfast, but you can incorporate a chopped garlic clove or shallot when you cook the mushrooms and a sprig of freshly chopped parsley as you assemble the dish.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 377Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 186mgSodium: 240mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 10gSugar: 8gProtein: 15g
Values may vary depending on ingredients and brands used.
Possible variations to this savory barley porridge recipe
You can change any of the toppings of this recipe and get inspiration from the many barley bowl recipes we have on the site.
Here are a few creative ideas to try:
- Apple for pears: Replace the apples in this bowl with chopped pears instead, you will maintain the crunch but add a bit more sweetness.
- Any mushroom: You can make this barley porridge with any mushroom, even the dried ones. Wild mushrooms complement barley’s earthiness.
- Add garlic and parsley: I minimise the amount of garlic I eat for breakfast, but finely chopped garlic and parsley go great with the mushrooms.
- Use instant soup: Instead of coconut milk, you can use broth or half a sachet of mushroom instant soup and water to cook the porridge.
Make this recipe with <250 kcal
The majority of the calories in this dish come from the egg and the olive oil used to cook the dish. Here is what you can do to reduce the calories:
- Reduce 70 Kcal: Remove the egg all together, have only half of it or eat just the egg white to shave off 70, 35 or 50 calories respectively.
- Reduce 50 kcal: Use a very small amount of olive oil, or just spray a small amount of non-stick oil to save 50 Kcal
So, to make this recipe 250kcal you should do away with the egg and use minimal amount of olive oil.