Barley Breakfast Bowl

Breakfast is probably my favourite meal of the day.  That may be because it’s usually a short haven of quiet and solitude amidst a bustling and noisy daily schedule.  It may be because it’s so often a union of sweet and savory.  Or maybe I’m just a morning person.  Regardless, those who read often will know that I have a thing for whole grain breakfast meals, particularly if they bust the leftovers that are kicking around in the fridge.  This is the latest improvisation on the theme: which you can feel free to customize to suit your taste and available fridge residents.

Yield: 1 serving

What you need:

  • 1 cup leftover cooked barley (or cooked grain of any kind)
  • 1/2 of a leftover cooked sweet potato (steamed, roasted or baked will all work, as long as the flesh is soft and mashable)
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons of miso (the amount will depend on whether you use light sweet miso – 2 teaspoons; or a darker red miso – 1 teaspoon, maybe a bit more)
  • 2 or 3 teaspoons of nut butter (a flavoured, salted nut butter is best, something like a curried cashew butter or the pistachio-zaatar butter here for example)
  • water
  • crushed toasted nuts or seed-nut crackers for garnish (optional)

What you do:

  1. Place the barley (or grain) and 2 or 3 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan over low heat.  Cover and then make the lunches for school/work, prep veggies for the evening supper or do a load of laundry.  Reading might also be an option.  Anything that will take about 20 minutes of time while the grain slowly reheats and absorbs the water.  Alternately, if you’re in a hurry, crank up the fire and stir regularly so that the grains heat evenly and don’t stick to the bottom – that should speed things up to between 5 and 7 minutes.
  2. While the grains heat, in a measuring cup or bowl, mash the sweet potato with the miso to form a smooth and uniform purée.
  3. In another small cup or bowl, blend the nut butter with warm water to form a sauce of a thickness or thinness you find appealing.  If using unspiced, unsalted raw nut butter, feel free to add some spice powder and a bit of salt, tamari or miso to make things taste sublime and look interesting.
  4. When the grains are hot, remove from heat and add the sweet potato purée.  Mix to distribute the mash evenly through the barley.  It should look creamy.
  5. Put the grain-sweet-potato ‘porridge’ into a bowl.  Pour the nut sauce overtop and then artfully strew nuts, seeds or crunchy cracker crumbs overtop it all.


  • To reduce on dishes, once you’ve transferred the sweet potato mash to the cooked grain, just rinse out the bowl or measuring cup and use that to mix the nut sauce.

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