Pearl barley has long been famous for its porridge. Boiling the peeled barley kernels to pulpy softness or puffed up in a turbid soup? It was considered the food of the poor, the dreaded gooey school lunch or food for the sick. From a Bayern point of view, we have to ask moral questions. Isn’t eating barley a pointless waste of beer raw materials?
Beer is considered a staple in the country, but barley grains are not old. Barley is one of the oldest grains cultivated by man. It was cultivated in the Near East 10,000 years ago. From there it reached Central Europe in the Neolithic period. Even in ancient times, barley was used in brewing and baking. In medieval Europe, wheat and rye gradually replaced barley as raw materials for bread. In this country, barley is mainly used for animal feed and malt production. Between 20 kinds of mashed potatoes and ready-made dumplings, you have to search for a long time in the supermarket to find a grufen. Once basic food is now just a niche product. The fact that it is now relatively reliable to buy in stock-rich organic markets doesn’t change that fact. Not long ago, you had to go to a health food store or ask the mill directly.
In the remote mountainous regions of Tibet and Nepal, ssampa, a type of porridge made with roasted barley, is still the most important food. However, barley, especially in the form of pearl barley, also remains part of the rustic rural cuisine of the Alps. In Graubünden and South Tyrol, hearty barley soup serves as a warm energy source, especially in winter. The Swiss Army listed Bündner Barley Soup as recipe number 207 in their official culinary compendium because it is easy to cook, hearty and filling. In Switzerland it is called “Währschaft”.
First-class chefs rediscover barley
Nutritious, original and simple. The basic principles are ancient, but these characteristics have for a while been considered very modern again in the finest gastronomy. Top chefs like Ali Güngörmüs serve barley risotto, health influencers praise the health of peeled grains, and supporters of the “Clean Eat” movement stylize barley as a “forgotten ancient grain.” Swiss star chef Sven Wassmer produces fermented koji from local barley and Japanese yeast, which he uses as a “high mountain umami” in his menu. It has always been a more popular topic. To recap, the inconspicuous grain has undergone an astonishing image change over the past few decades, from old slime to solid hipsters, so to speak.
Perhaps there is some truth to both views. To tell the truth, pearl barley is a grain that has been hulled and polished. It is available in round, semi-circular and rectangular shapes and in various sizes. Pearl barley consists of whole grains because pearl barley is crushed into grains before being milled. Because podless grains are easier to digest than whole grain products, barley soup and barley flour have also been tried and tested as home remedies for gastrointestinal disorders. Barley products are also recommended for lowering cholesterol because they contain the fiber beta-glucan.
The great thing about barley is that it is just as versatile as rice. It can be used for “risotto” (gray sauce?) as well as salads and soups. They can be made savory or sweet by cooking with sugar and milk. When cooked, pearl barley requires as much liquid as rice. You need 2-3 cups of water, broth or milk per cup of raw grains. The cooking time takes about 20 to 30 minutes depending on the type of product and preparation. Pearl barley becomes thinner the longer it is boiled. Correct consistency is a matter of feeling. Those with a traumatic pearl barley experience as a child should choose shorter cooking times and enjoy al dente.
It takes a lot of vegetables and a little time to make something really “healthy” like the nutritious Grisons barley soup. For 4 servings, cut the leek in half lengthwise, wash and chop finely. Peel and diced 150 g carrots and 150 g celery. Dice 50 g Bündnerfleisch. Peel 1 onion, cut in half, and decorate half with 1 bay leaf and 1 clove. Fry the leeks, carrots, celery and Bündnerfleisch in vegetable oil for about 5 minutes. Add 100g of glutinous rice and stir-fry slightly. Add the sliced onion and add soup or veal feet if you like. Pour 1.5L of meat or vegetable broth and boil for about 2 hours. Just before serving, season with salt, pepper and a little cream. You can also prepare a vegetarian soup. You will need a little more salt, soy cream and a good vegetable broth. Bündnerfleisch is of course excluded.