My Warm Barley Salad with Chickpea, Nuts and Dried Fruit is delicious and healthy and packed full with the goodness of grains, legumes, nuts and fruits. And completely vegan too.
I took my inspiration for this warm barley salad from a dish from Iran’s Azarbaijan province. They use almost the same ingredients to make a dish called dishliq when a baby has a first tooth. But obviously the dish is not meant to be eaten by the baby! I guess preparing the dish is a symbolic way of announcing that the baby is doing well and is getting ready to eat solid food. It’s also a good excuse to invite family and friends to celebrate like Iranians love to do.
Soaking barley overnight hugely reduces the cooking time and makes it very soft and nice. If you don’t have time, it’s OK. Just cook longer.
I used basil extra virgin olive oil that I had made earlier. Just had added a couple of tablespoons of dried basil to a bottle of good extra virgin olive oil and left it for a month. It smells amazing now.
When I had mixed all the ingredients of the barley salad I reached for Spanish sweet smoked paprika and Aleppo pepper, as usual. I can never resist adding these spices to my salads for a little kick. If you are not familiar with these ingredients here is a little about them:
Aleppo pepper, known as pul biber in Turkish and fulful halabi in Arabic, is flaky red pepper that can range in taste from mild to medium hot and is a little oily and salty. It’s a great addition to many dishes. You can buy this very versatile spice from Middle Eastern and Turkish groceries or online. Use mild chilli flakes if you can find it. Here is how it looks:
Spanish smoked paprika, called pimentón in Spanish, is a deep orange powder obtained from grinding smoked pepper. It can be sweet or hot so check the label on the box. I use sweet to give depth of flavour to salads, rice dishes, chicken and basically everything except desserts. It looks like this:
So here is how we make this lovely barley salad.
1. Put the barley in a saucepan and cover with water. Stir and drain the cloudy water. Cover with water again. There must be at least two inches (5cm) of water above the grains. Leave to soak over night. When you are ready to cook drain and rinse again and cover with water again. Add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover the saucepan and let cook for 30 minutes if you soaked them, 45 to 60 minutes from dry. Drain well.
2. Meanwhile put the almonds and walnuts in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse.
3. Rinse and drain the currants and cranberries. Let stand with the water clinging to them to soften a bit. If they are really dry soak them for five minutes until they are as soft as you like.
4. Drain the chickpeas and add to the cooked barley with the nuts, currants and cranberries. Mix well. Add the olive oil and spices and adjust the seasoning. Transfer the salad to a bowl and sprinkle with a little smoked paprika. Enjoy!