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A toast to barley!

11 September 2015

By Simon Walsh


THIS year, I was in Shanghai with a friend who ordered a drink that arrived containing puffed wheat. I was mystified, but established it to be Lemon barley water. Sometimes we have an Indian summer when this might be refreshing, but it is also recommended for tackling common ailments.


225g (8 oz) pearl barley

2l (4 pt) water

1 large lemon, pared and juiced

1 tablespoon of sugar or honey, to taste


Place the pearl barley in a large saucepan, and cover with the water. Bring this to the boil, and then simmer for 30 minutes with the lid partially on. Remove from the heat, and stir in the pared lemon zest; allow everything to cool.

Strain the liquid (reserving the barley for soups, stews, or the recipe below), and stir in the lemon juice, with the sugar or honey. Taste, and add more lemon juice or sweetener as required. Chill in a sealed bottle in the fridge. It keeps well for about two days. By all means experiment with a couple of limes or half a grapefruit instead of lemon.

The Michaelmas goose is almost a thing of the past, but it used to be a great tradition, marking a quarter of the year and a milestone feast before Christmas. Geese are leaner at this time, and ideal with seasonal apples. I encourage anyone so minded to celebrate the day with a goose.

This alternative for Michaelmas-style turkey drumsticks is not too far away from the idea, and uses leftover pearl barley. You can get large turkey joints, but smaller ones are more common; so use 2-3 here.


1.5kg (3 lb) large turkey drumsticks

120g (4 oz) unsalted butter

230g (8 oz) black pudding, sliced

1 large onion, chopped

Small bunch of thyme

2 medium cooking apples

570ml (1 pt) chicken stock

225g (8 oz) cooked pearl barley


Carefully peel back the skin from the turkey, and rub the flesh with half the butter. Replace the skin, season, and set in a baking tin in the oven at 220°C/425°F/Gas 7 for 20 minutes. Reduce to 180°/350°/Gas 5 and cook for an hour.

Fry or grill the roundels of black pudding, and set aside.

In a large pan, melt the remaining butter with a little oil, and fry the onion until pale and golden. Pull off the thyme leaves, and fleck them through the soft onions. Core, peel, and chop the apples, and add to the onion, cooking through softly so that the apples break down but do not lose their form entirely. After about ten minutes, add the stock and simmer for ten minutes more.

Now add the pearl barley, and stir through. Remove from the heat. Crumble the black pudding into the barley, mix well, test for seasoning, then cover until needed.

Rest the cooked turkey for ten minutes before carving. Mound the barley on to plates, with turkey slices on top. Spring greens or Savoy cabbage go well with this. It is just as good with duck, chicken, or your dark-meat turkey leftovers.

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