Another week, another meal required to cook itself in my absence. I really must find my daughter some extra-curricular activities that don’t take place in the hour before dinner time.
Barley = Cold weather food
Perhaps because of the cold weather, I’d had a yearning for barley. It’s so yummy and warming and wintery. I wasn’t entirely sure how I could concoct something with it that would cook itself in a pre-set oven in my absence, but then I remembered my rainbow quinoa bake. Inspired, I rummaged in the fridge and found some vegetables that would turn it this humble grain into a whole dinner.
The barley bake was pretty easy to cook and assemble. I prepared and cooked the vegetable components while the barley was simmering, then mixed everything together, put it in the dish, and organised the toppings. Done.
There’s always room for error…
I’m always a bit neurotic that the automatic-oven-switcher-on function will fail me, although so far (puh puh puh!) it has never let me down. Walking out of the house, knowing that the fate of our evening meal depends on my ability to persuade an appliance to spring into life with no-one there to watch it… I get cold sweats just thinking about it.
Turns out I needn’t have worried! Opening the front door on our return we were greeted by the delicious aroma of our dinner as it perfumed the air. A bubbling, crispy dish of deliciousness was retrieved from the oven, and we tucked in to our hot barley bake without further ado.
“Don’t just eat the vegetables!”
DH is not a big barley fan, but he said that this was, “quite good….for barley.” I think that counts as approval. My daughter Kipper liked the barley part but wasn’t keen on the tomato topping, although this wasn’t a surprise – tomatoes are one of the few foods she’s never really got on with. At one point though, DH caught himself saying, “Don’t just eat the spinach – you need to eat the rest, too!” But everyone says that to their pre-schooler, right?
Another success to add to the absentee-cooking recipe list!
We ate this whole dish of yummy, cheesy, mushroomy, spinach & barley bake between the three of us. We would probably have eaten more if there had been more. I’d say this serves 2.
- 120g pearl barley
- 1-2 tsp stock powder (optional)
- 250g spinach
- 2 small or 1 medium onion
- 100g mushrooms
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 0.5 tsp dried thyme
- 0.5 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 eggs
- 150g cherry tomatoes
- 55g grated cheddar cheese
- Place the barley and stock powder in a large pan with about 1.5l water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30-40 minutes until the barley is tender. Drain.
- Remove the stems from the spinach and wash and shred the leaves. Peel and slice the onions. Quarter or halve the mushrooms.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over a medium heat. Cook the onions for a few minutes to soften, then add the mushrooms and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the spinach by handfuls and allow to wilt before stirring in and adding more. Season with the thyme and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Add the vegetable mixture to the barley in a large bowl, and stir in the eggs. Pour into a baking dish and level the top.
- Cut the tomatoes into quarters and arrange over the top of the barley mixture, then sprinkle over the cheese. Bake at 180C for 35 minutes until hot throughout, golden and crispy.
With spinach, mushrooms, onion and cherry tomatoes, this surely deserves a place in Extra Veg, hosted by Michelle at Utterly Scrummy and co-organised by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours.
I’m also entering it into this month’s Family Foodies, organised by Eat Your Veg and Bangers & Mash, which is looking for “healthier child-friendly recipes”.