The Summer Gain: Barley…


Barley is a grain we don’t really use that much. A few decades ago barley was an everyday ingredient in lots of kitchens in the eastern part of Europe. Now it is almost forgotten for no reason. It is an exceptionally healthy ingredient with lots of benefits. On the top of this, it is cheaper than any other grain. I have a few pictures and recipes with barley waiting in a folder on my computer for at least a year, and since barley is a summer grain – it is time to share it with you now.

In this post I would like to talk about its benefits and give you some ideas how to use it. We usually have cooked barley in our refrigerator, because it is a grain you have to cook for at least 45-50 minutes. So it is not a quickie, unless you keep some in a jar with vacuum. (Read about making your own canned food here.) It is worth cooking in advance, because you can use it in many different ways: in a soup (instead of noodles) – my favourite way to eat it –, mixed with steamed vegetables as a side dish or even dessert.

Barley is a summer grain:

  • Neutral, refreshing grain with a sweet taste.
  • It stabilizes the organism, strengthens the Spleen, Stomach and the intestines.
  • Takes out the heat from the organism, and nourishes the Blood and the body fluids.
  • It can be used to detoxify the body (even during pregnancy and breastfeeding).
  • If you toast it a little it becomes an alkaline grain.
  • Cools the body heat in case of fever – make some soup with it.
  • Helps in case of: oedemas, swelling, excess weight, cellulite, because it takes out he excess water and phlegm.
  • During summer heat, but after a long illness or fatigue you can drink barley water: Cook 2 tablespoon barley in 1 litre water for 40 minutes. Strain it and drink it after cooled down. Drink daily 200-400 ml from it for 2 weeks.
  • After toasting you can grind the grains, which is called barley flour (tsampa in Tibet). It makes a quick and tasty mush when cooked in some water with butter or ghee. 


We often prepare barley with some vegetables as a side dish: we just steam some veggies, spice it according to the season – in the summer mostly with lots of fresh herbs – and mix it with the cooked barley. We usually serve it with salad and goat cheese, some fish, mushrooms or poached eggs.

Another lovely form of serving barley is a kind of dessert with coconut milk, sesame seeds and some fruits. We eat it mostly for breakfast, but it works as a dessert as well. This type of dessert is simple but interesting – even Ottholeghi thought of it. He prepares it with milk and orange water…


Barley with Coconut Milk and Sesame

Serves 4 as a dessert / 2 for breakfast

  • 200 g cooked barley (Earth)
  • 500 ml coconut milk (Earth)
  • 4-5 whole cardamom, freshly ground (Metal)
  • 1 pinch of salt (Water)
  • 4 tablespoon sesame seeds (black, white, yellow mixed), toasted in a pan and ground in a mortar (Fire)
  • seasonal fruit warmed up in a little butter (Earth)
  • 4 teaspoon bee pollen (Fire)
  • 4 teaspoon cane sugar molasses (Fire, Earth)
  1. Warm up the cooked barley in a little water with the salt and the cardamom. Warm until the water disappears.
  2. Pour the coconut milk into it, and warm a little. Don’t cook it.
  3. Serve it in small bowls with the fruits, sesame, bee pollen and molasses on the top.


How to cook barley

50 g barley / person

  1. Wash the barley 4-5 times in water. If you have time soak it for a few hours, in this way the cooking time will be 10-15 minutes shorter. If you don’t have time for soaking, cook it in lots of water.
  2. Add some salt to the cooking liquid, and cook it for 45-50 minutes.
  3. After the barley is cooked, strain it off, but keep the cooking liquid which is called barley water. Barley water is just as beneficial for our body as the grain itself: cools it down and takes out the excess heat, so you can use it as a summer drink after it cools down.

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