Barley with Braised Chard

6 February 2024 Dairy Free Vegetarian Friendly
A concoction of pure comfort, this combination of barley and chard with a hint of allspice combines two of my favourites - a grain and a braise. Deeply mellow and satisfying in every way, this dish could happily exist as a meal in itself accompanied by a simple green salad or padded out alongside a piece of chicken or fish. 

Always searching for ways to incorporate my favourite rainbow and green leaves, this combination of soothing grains and warm spiced goodness is my wintery hug in a bowl, especially welcome on weeks when the sun is elsewhere. Like so many of my recipes, the grain is interchangeable with any other of choice (think freekeh, spelt, quinoa or farro) and feel free to jazz it up with a little marinated feta crumbed through, a little chili crunch or some pickled celery or red onion to suit your mood. 

If you can’t find any rainbow chard, regular chard, cavolo nero or broccoli rabe are excellent replacements.

P.S. it also makes an excellent leftover topped with a jammy egg and some extra greens for a little fridge forage lunch.

Barley with Braised Chard

  • 300g pearl barley
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 500g chard (the rainbow variety is my fave and adds technicolour if available)
  • 1 banana shallot (or 1 small onion)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 125ml vermouth or white wine
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • Rinse the barley under running water until it runs clear.  Place in a shallow sauté pan with a tight fitting lid and cover with cold water or vegetable stock, a teaspoon of salt and the bay leaf.  
  • Bring to the boil, stir and cover, lowering the heat to the gentlest simmer. 
  • Cook for 30 minutes. Do not lift the lid.  When finished, turn off the heat and allow to sit for another 10 minutes without lifting the lid.
  • While the barley cooks, rinse the chard well to remove any grit, shaking off any excess water. Do not worry about drying the leaves, a few drips of water will help create a sauce in the cooking process
  • Trim the stems at the base of the leaf, and thinly slice the tougher ribs.  Keep the leaves whole for now.  
  • Cut the shallot (or onion) in half lengthways through the root and slice into thin rounds.
  • Place a medium sized frying pan or sauté pan with a lid over a medium heat and add the olive oil and the sliced shallot.  Season with a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes or so until translucent and beginning to brown.  Add the chard stems (if you have decided to keep them) and cook for another 5 minutes until they begin to soften.  
  • Roughly chop the chard leaves and add them to the onion mixture.  Once they begin to wilt, add the vermouth or white wine, allow the alcohol to burn off for a minute or so and then cover, turn down the heat and braise on a low heat for 5-10 minutes (depending on their size and how tough they are) until the leaves are cooked.  They will loose their colour a little, but don’t worry, the taste will be worth it.   
  • Once the barley has finished cooking and resting, lit the lid and immediately add the sherry vinegar and allspice.  Seasoning the grains when still hot allows them to take on more flavour.  Fork through the barley to break up any grains and evenly disperse the aromatics.
  • Add the chard and all its juice to the barley and mix.  A little olive oil or knob of butter melted in will create a little more sauce if desired.  
Have you made this dish?

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