Baked Barley (and/or Buckwheat)

The calendar may say summer, but the thermometer said 4 degrees Celsius this morning.  That begs for something warm baking in the oven, perfuming the air and heating up the house until the sun perks up and does the job for us.  Result: baked barley.  This can be made with grains alone or add the suggested lentils for a stick-to-the-ribs one-pot meal.

Yield: 10 cups with the lentils; 8 cups otherwise

What you need:

  • 1 oz dried trumpet mushrooms, lightly crushed in your hand first (or any other wild and flavourful mushroom such as porcini, morille, maitake or crab)
  • 4 cups unsalted vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 onions, halved and sliced into thin half-moons
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms (white button or cremini), thickly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 cup pot barley (or more buckwheat groats)
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats (not kasha – the untoasted groats are what you want here; or more barley)
  • 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses, organic unsulphured preferred
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups cooked Dupuy lentils (optional; soak 2/3 of a cup dry lentils overnight and then cook them up with 3 bay leaves and a 2″ piece of kombu seaweed for about 1/2 an hour, bringing things to a boil with plenty of water and then lowering to a covered simmer.  Cool a little and drain, and put it aside until ready to use.  Or rinse a can of lentils really well if time is lacking and use that instead!)

What you do:

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the vegetable broth to a simmer and pour over the dried mushrooms.  Cover with a small plate and leave the mushrooms to soften and infuse the broth, about 1/2 an hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  3. Now heat the oil over medium flame in a 4 or 5 quart Dutch oven or stove-to-oven pot.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and stir and fry, lowering the heat a bit if necessary, until the onions are golden, 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add the minced garlic, mushrooms, rosemary, sage, thyme and allspice and stir well.  Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms begin to release their moisture.
  5. Add the barley and buckwheat to the pot and stir and fry them with the onions and mushrooms until they look and smell a bit toasty and there are golden bits starting to stick to the bottom of the pot.
  6. Deglaze the pot with a bit of the broth from step 1.  Once all the toasty bits are in the broth, add the rest of the broth along with the rehydrated mushrooms.  Mix in the blackstrap molasses, mustard and salt.
  7. Turn off the burner, cover the pot and transfer the whole thing to the oven for 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven, add the lentils and mix well.  Cover again and return to the oven for another 15 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and grains are cooked.
  8. Remove from the oven and let sit, covered, 15 or 20 minutes before serving.
  9. Serve.  With sauerkraut (the home-fermented super-awesome stuff…) if desire.  It makes a nice side dish to round out the meal.

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