Barley Risotto with Irish Red Ale, Butternut Squash and Sage

Pearl Barley Risotto with Irish Ale, Butternut Squash and Sage (c)2013 La Domestique

It’s been one of those perfect autumn days here in Cavan. We had blue skies and golden sunshine, the wind felt fresh and crisp, and there were even a couple passing sun showers. As I write this now I gaze out the window and watch the sun slowly disappearing behind the hill. Our house looks out onto grassy fields and this is the time of day the cows come round. As I cook supper I like to look out my kitchen window and watch Herefords and Charlaois navigating the bushes looking for tasty bits of grass and basking in the sun. A stream winds its way around the field, and I can see magnificent grey herons gliding towards the water and meadow pipets darting in and out of the grass. I remember that not every home I’ve lived in had a kitchen window, and the thought of cooking in a dark box with harsh florescent light makes me appreciate my view of nature even more. There are times when I wish I lived in Dublin, where it’s all happening, but this is not one of those times. Right now I’m happy to be just where I am, in the rolling hills and the land of the lakes that is Cavan.


This Past Week at La Domestique: Barley

This past week at La Domestique we cooked with barley in all its forms: the grain, flour, flakes, and grits. This versatile grain is full of nutty, malty flavor. It brings an earthy character to comforting fall soups and stews. Barley is higher in fiber than any other grain, and adds variety to our diet. Use barley in baking for its rich flavor and ability to hold onto moisture, prolonging shelf-life. Looking for inspiration on cooking with barley? The last week is full of ideas from cuisines around the world: Italy, France, India, America, Africa and the Middle East.

In case you missed anything, I’ve got a recap:


Monday:  Announcing barley as ingredient of the week.

Tuesday:  10 Ways Tuesday! Creative ideas for cooking with barley inspired by cuisines around the world.

Wednesday:  Cook in the moment with a recipe for Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Barley, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Rosemary served over a bed of sautéed kale.


Barley-Sesame Flatbreads

Barley-Sesame Flatbreads (c)2011

This week at la domestique we’ve explored barley, an ancient wheat-free grain. Today I’m baking with barley flour. For thousands of years the people of Africa and the Middle East have used barley ground into flour for their flatbreads. Barley flour is slightly sweet with a bit of a malty flavor. It enriches bread dough, resulting in a more moist loaf. However, barley flour is low in gluten, so it must be used in combination with higher gluten flours to maintain the structure of the bread. I was excited to discover an Afghani recipe for Barley-Sesame Flatbreads in the book, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison.

In the recipe, Deborah combines active dry yeast with several types of flour. Why use yeast in a FLATbread? I know it seems odd, but yeast adds flavor and creates air bubbles. The air bubbles give the bread structure in the form of pockets which makes for a lighter (not dense) texture. Barley flour, whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, and bread flour come together for a flavorful dough that bakes up like a soft pillow. Toasting the barley flour in a dry pan is key to releasing its nutty flavor. Use your intuition when making this recipe, as I found the dough to be very wet and ended up tossing in about 1/4 cup more bread flour. The humidity and your measuring technique can affect how much flour you will need. Maybe you feel that your dough is way too dry? Carefully add more water a little at a time.


Storyboard: Barley

Barley Storyboard (c)2011

The earthy, nutty flavor and hearty texture of barley lends a comforting character to soups and stews. Is it the history of this ancient grain packed into a little brown kernel that makes us feel nourished? For thousands of years our ancestors have cultivated barley. It’s high in fiber and has a low glycemic index. A meal that includes barley is sure to be a satisfying one.


According to the book, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, barley is a highly adaptable grain that grows well in climates and soils across the globe. Though intensive farming corporations grow genetically engineered grains, heirloom varieties of barley can be found growing in the U.S. Diversity is important to the health of nature, so look for different types of barley like black, bronze, and gold versions.

The various forms of barley

  • Barley Flour

Barley flour adds a nutty, sweet and slightly malty flavor to baked goods. It also makes baked goods more moist.  However, it’s low in gluten, and must be combined with higher-gluten flours. In the cookbook, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, Maria Speck advises that if you are substituting barley flour into a recipe, replace no more than a third of the flour with barley flour so the bread will maintain it’s structure when baked. Purchase barley flour or grind your own. The Splendid Grain is a great resource for directions on making your own barley flour.


Cook in Moment: Barley Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Barley Stuffed Portobello Mushroom (c)2011

Each week I contribute a column to “Whole Foods Market Cooking Boulder” expanding on one of my 10 Ways Tuesday ideas. This week I shared a recipe for Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Barley, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Rosemary served over a bed of sautéed kale. Stuffed vegetables like mushrooms, squash, or pumpkins are a delicious vegetarian simple supper for fall. For my recipe, plus information on the different types of barley, click on the icon below.