Twice as Tasty

Hot Pearl Barley with Honeyed Nuts

While not a whole grain, pearl barley (with the outer hull and bran removed) has more fiber and nutrients than many processed grains

By Julie Laing
Hot pearl barley with honeyed nuts. Photo by Julie Laing

When making hot cereal for a crowd, or a batch to quickly reheat and eat over a couple of days, I choose pearl barley. While not a whole grain, pearl barley (with the outer hull and bran removed) has more fiber and nutrients than many processed grains. The downside of pearl barley is its lengthy cooking time.

I long avoided the seemingly obvious solution: my stovetop pressure cooker. Pressure-cooking grains can gum up the steam vent – the last thing you want, since excess pressure buildup is what made old pressure cookers and canners scary. Then someone came up with the brilliant idea of using the pressure cooker as a water bath, bain-marie style. This technique lets you neatly pressure cook pearl barley in about 40 percent of the saucepan time.

Some pressure cookers come with accessories, but most kitchens hold DIY options. I use a small stainless-steel bowl; a silicone trivet or large metal lid, placed lip down, as a rack; and foil to cover the bowl. If your bowl sits too deeply to remove easily (test this before heating the cooker), fold another piece of foil like a sling under the bowl, with long sides that you can grab to remove it from the pot. The process works in electric pressure cookers too, but check your user manual for settings.

Hot Pearl Barley with Honeyed Nuts

Serves 4

3/4 cup pearl barley

1-1/2 to 3 cups water, depending on cooking method

1/2 tablespoon salted butter

1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional)

1/2 cup currants or dried cranberries

For the medium saucepan method, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Stir in the pearl barley and butter. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 45 minutes, stirring as needed to prevent sticking.

For the stovetop pressure cooker method, stir together the pearl barley, butter and 1-1/2 cups of water in a heatproof bowl that fits inside your pressure cooker; cover the bowl with foil. Place a rack and 2 cups of water in the pressure cooker, and insert the covered bowl. Close the lid, following the manufacturer’s instructions, and turn the heat to high. When the cooker reaches high pressure, lower the heat to maintain the pressure and cook for 18 minutes. Turn off the heat, let the cooker sit untouched for 10 minutes and then release any remaining pressure, tilting the lid away as you open it.

Spread the nuts on a baking tray; drizzle them with honey, stirring to coat. Toast at 350°F for up to 10 minutes, until lightly brown. Remove the nuts from the oven and let cool.

When the barley is cooked, stir in the maple syrup, if desired, and dried fruit. Divide among bowls and top each with sweetened nuts. Serve hot.