Pearl barley pilaf

Pearl barley pilaf

The Natural Cook
Laura Edwards

Pilaf is a delicious and aromatic Middle Eastern dish usually made from rice cooked in a rich broth of onions and spices. Here I’m using pearl barley, a British grain perfect for replacing rice in sticky dishes such as risotto, paella and pilaf. The barley grains soak up every ounce of flavour from the broth and become bulging and unctuous.


Quantity Ingredient
1 quantity Roast carrots with rosemary
2 large red onions, roughly sliced
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
50g butter
50g black olives, pitted
1//2 unwaxed lemon, finely zested and juiced
pinch chilli flakes
1 tablespoon raw local honey
100g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly crushed
3 sprigs parsley, stalks finely chopped, leaves roughly chopped
150g pearl barley
or 150g brown rice
1 litre vegetable stock
or 1 litre water


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. In an ovenproof pan, gently sauté the onions, garlic and spices in the butter for 10 minutes, until soft.
  2. Add the carrots, olives, lemon zest, chilli, honey and barley and season with salt and pepper. Stir well to coat the grains and fry for a further two minutes, then add the stock or water.
  3. Bring to the boil, cover and put in the oven for 20–30 minutes, until the barley is just cooked. Serve hot with the hazelnuts over the top, followed by some chopped parsley and a splash of lemon juice.


  • Pan-fried pilaf cake: Pulse-blend leftover chilled pilaf, then form into golf ball-sized spheres. Make some breadcrumbs by putting stale bread in a blender or food processor and roll the pilaf balls in them to give a good crisp coating. Heat a frying pan with a glug of flavourless vegetable oil over a high heat. Fry the balls on one side for a few minutes to crisp them up, squashing them slightly to form a patty. Turn and brown the opposite side in the same way. Serve with salad, or as a snack.


  • The pilaf will keep well for three days in a sealed container in the fridge. To reheat, cover and bake in an oven preheated to 180°C for about 15 minutes, or until piping hot right through.
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