As I prepared this dish, I mused over the fact that the humble kasha has been so quickly and so easily elevated to a completely different level and transformed from a side dish that tends to accompany autumn and winter meals to a star of a summer salad. With the addition of few salad basics, this barley salad is all singing and dancing meal that doesn’t leave you feeling like a rabbit nibbling on a bowl of leaves. Interested?
I grew up on barley, bulgur, millet, wheat and many more groats. These were our staples and featured in many dishes and are one of my favourite meal makers. Mr A on the other hand is adamant these belong to a hippy land, alongside lentils of course… Still, I keep persevering with him and kasha makes an appearance from time to time. This salad is the perfect enticement into the world of groats and since Mr A definitely approves, it is here firmly to stay.
Warm, freshly cooked barley is drenched in olive oil and lemon juice and dressed with lemon zest, salt and pepper. Its firm texture is the perfect pairing for softly grated courgettes, so abundant at this time of the year. Mint adds the perfect note of freshness without being overbearing whilst the cherry tomatoes add sweetness to complement the flavours. And to play further on texture, I have chosen some chilli halloumi cheese quickly cooked on the griddle to show of its deep brown and crusty markings. All in all it is a very substantial salad and perfect as a meat-free solution. But as you can imagine, Mr A had to have some meat so as a way of compromising I have added crispy streaky bacon to keep him happy. So whether you opt for the vegetarian option or serve it with some grilled chicken, this one deserves to feature on your summer menu. Here is the recipe.
- 200 grams of barley
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 1/2 medium Spanish onion finely diced
- 1 lemon
- 1 large courgette, finely grated
- small bunch of fresh mint
- 220 grams of cherry tomatoes
- 1 pack of chilli halloumi, griddled or grilled chicken (optional)
In a saucepan, place water twice the volume of the barley and bring it up to the boil. Add salt. In the meantime rinse the barley well under cold running tap. Once the water in the saucepan is boiling, add the barley, cover and cook for 15 minutes until all of the water has been absorbed and the grains are soft but with a little bite. Transfer it to the serving dish and allow to cool down for 5 minutes or so.
Dress the cooked barley with the olive oil, juice from 1/2 of the lemon and the zest. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt if needed, bearing in mind that if you are adding bacon or halloumi cheese, both of these are salty so scale back on the salt. Add the chopped onion so that it has a chance to soften using the heat of the mixture. Give it all a mix so to help the grains absorb the dressing. Set aside.
You could stop at this point if you want. But since I really like halloumi and its squeaky texture, I had to add this next step. Those with even the mildest OCD, look away now…
How deliciously brown are those stripes! Just perfect. Griddle halloumi on a high heat until burnished and crusty. Place on top of the salad, scatter some more mint over and serve immediately. Squeak. Sunshine optional. Enjoy x