February is a funny month. Spring is on the way but the weather can be so harsh, as if winter doesn’t want to let you go just yet. The icy cold winds of the last few days here in the UK are the perfect example of this!
Eating wise, this chilliness means it’s still the perfect time to enjoy warming, nourishing foods. And this barley and roasted squash stew is definitely one to add to the weekly menu plan!
Barley is one of those grains that have been around for a long time – it’s the oldest grain to be cultivated by humans – but goes in and out of popularity. Nutrient wise, pot barley is the more whole-grain version but it can be very hard to find, and takes a lot more cooking. So more commonly, its pearl barley that’s found in the supermarket. And whilst it has lost some of the beneficial nutrients, it still offers good amounts of fibre, B vitamins and calcium to name a few.
Barley has been used for brewing, eating and of course for barley water which was seen as a healthful, refreshing drink. In fact, because pearl barley has the bran removed, it’s long been used as invalid food due to it’s digestibility as well as providing some great nutrients.
The down side is that barley contains gluten, so off the menu for anyone with celiac’s disease and strong gluten intolerances, although some people seem to be able to handle barley better than wheat grains. If you are gluten free, you can still enjoy this recipe. Just replace the barley with buckwheat, quinoa or millet and reduce the cooking time by about 15 minutes as all of these gluten free options all cook much more quickly.
This stew contains some fabulous rainbow ingredients that will fill you with lovely anti-inflammatory antioxidants, perfect for supporting the immune system which needs all the help it can get right now.
If you’re feeding hungry people, then serve the stew on crushed or mashed potatoes plus I like to add another green veg on the side, but don’t feel obliged to do that!
I hope you enjoy this delicious dish and that you feel warmed from the inside out. Do let me know how you get on.
Barley and roasted squash stew
- 1 medium squash
- 100 grams pearl barley
- 1 medium onion sliced
- 1 medium leek sliced
- 2 medium carrots diced
- 2 fat cloves of garlic sliced
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 800 ml vegetable stock
- 250 grams frozen peas defrosted
- 1 heaped tbsp cornflour
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley to garnish
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Wash the squash, deseed and cut into smallish chunks - no need to remove the skin. Place the squash on a large baking tray, squirt a little olive oil over the pieces (optional) and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Place a medium-sized pan over medium heat. Add the barley to the pan and toast for a few minutes until lovely aromas are released. Carefully transfer to a plate.
- Add a couple of tablespoons of water to the same pan along with the onion, leek and carrot. Sauté for 5 minutes with the lid on until they start to soften.
- Add the garlic, herbs and a little more water if needed and sauté for another 2 minutes. Tip the toasted barley back into the pan and stir well to combine.
- Pour 700ml of vegetable stock into the pan. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on for 25 minutes.
- Check the barley - it should be al dente. If not, cook for another 5 minutes until there is some give then add the peas to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Mix the cornflour with the remaining 100ml of vegetable stock then pour into the pan to thicken the sauce slightly. Season with salt and pepper and turn off the heat.
- By now your squash will be roasted. If the skin is thin and soft then there's not need to remove it. If it's a tough one, then you can carefully slice it off (much easier then when is uncooked).
- Serve the barley stew topped with roasted squash pieces and the fresh chopped parsley.