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Barley, Simple and Nutritious

When dieting, you will want to consider using barley as a staple food in place of things as pasta and potatoes. you will usually find it in the same rows of the supermarket as rice and lentils etc. Many people have never actually noticed it there, but it is there. It is cheap too. And tasty when cooked right.

Barley is said to be the oldest of all cultivated grains. It seems to have been the principal bread plant among the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans. The ancient Jews especially held the grain in high esteem, and sacred written history usually uses it interchangeably with wheat, when speaking of the fruits of the Earth.

Among the early Greeks and Romans, barley was almost the only food of the common people and the soldiers. The flour was made into gruel, after the following recipe: "Dry, near the fire or in the oven, twenty pounds of barley flour, then parch it. Add three pounds of linseed meal, half a pound of coriander seeds, two ounces of salt, and the water necessary." If an especially delectable dish was desired, a little millet was also added to give the paste more "cohesion and delicacy." Barley was also used whole as a food, in which case it was first parched, which is still the manner of preparing it in some parts of Palestine and many districts of India, also in the Canary Islands, where it is known as gofio.

In Britain during the time of Charles I, barley meal took the place of wheat almost entirely as the food of the common people in England. In some parts of Europe, India, and other Eastern countries, it is still largely consumed as the ordinary farinaceous food of the peasantry and soldiers. The early settlers of New England also largely used it for bread making.

Barley is a whole grain, a common constituent of breakfast cereals and is easily cooked. Barley is nearly 10% protein, 1.2% fat, nearly 16% fibre, 77.7% carbohydrate and less than 1% sugars. It is loaded with B vitamins and trace minerals.

There are several distinct species of barley, but that most commonly cultivated is designated as two-rowed, or two-eared barley. In general structure, the barley grain resembles wheat and oats.

When processed and deprived of its outer husk, the grain is termed Scotch milled or pot barley. Subjected still further to the process by which the fibrous outer coat of the grain is removed, it constitutes what is known as pearl barley. Pearl barley ground into flour is known as patent barley. Barley flour, owing to the fact that it contains so small a proportion of gluten, needs to be mixed with wheaten flour for bread-making purposes. When added in small quantity to whole-wheat bread, it has a tendency to keep the loaf moist, and is thought by some to improve the flavour.

The most general use made of this cereal as a food is in the form of pearl, or Scotch, barley. When well boiled, barley requires about two hours for digestion and is a filling substitute of simple carbohydrates.

An excellent addition to soups and broths, barley can also be used as a staple in place of potatoes. Heavier and with more complex carbohydrates than potatoes, barley is best cooked with a stock cube and a good grind of pepper in the water to add flavour when cooking.

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