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Barley is such a wholesome, honest grain. We love using it in all sorts of recipes from soup to Indian pilau and even Italian risottos! It is hearty, cheap and delicious. Which means you can afford to add a few expensive ingredients now and again – like mushrooms. This recipe calls for half a tray of mushrooms. You can add the whole tray and even some grated mild cheese or chopped hard-boiled eggs for a meatless main course, that is delicious and not too pricey.

Barley & Brown Mushroom Pilau


  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2.5 ml cumin seeds
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • the seeds of 6 cardamom pods
  • 45 ml sunflower oil
  • 15 ml black mustard seeds
  • 250 g pearl barley (half a packet)
  • 750 ml prepared chicken stock
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 200 g (half a tray) brown mushrooms, sliced thinly then cut into julienne strips
  • 5 – 10 ml crushed garlic
  • salt and freshly-milled black pepper, to taste
  • 45 ml butter

Chef's hint: If you like a bite, feel free to add more pepper and even chopped green chili to taste. You can omit the mushrooms and replace it with 250 ml corn kernels for a lovely change. If you use corn kernels, add 30 ml of curry powder to the popping mustard seed mix for an utterly delicious curry dish.


Place the cloves, cumin seeds, black peppercorns and cardamom seeds in a mortar and pestle and grind coarsely.

Heat 10 ml of the oil in a large saucepan and add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop and burst, add the ground spices, the barley and the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer on low until cooked and dry - about 45 minutes. If it becomes too dry before it’s cooked, add some boiling water when and if necessary.

Meanwhile, heat the rest of the oil in a frying pan and add the onion. Sauté until glossy then add the mushroom strips. Sauté until the mushrooms are cooked dry and nicely caramelised. Add the garlic and cook a minute or so then stir into the barley.

When the barley is fully cooked and plump, stir in the butter, season to taste and serve.

Serves 6