Monday, January 26, 2009

Barley Gruel

Gruel. It sounds like something awful. I’d only heard it used as being something fed to children in long ago orphanages, with the implication that the only thing worse than gruel was starvation. It sounded like cruel for good reason!

But I went through a very bad patch several years ago, and wasn’t able to function effectively, including eating. Someone told me barley gruel provided good nourishment in those kinds of situations, and I was desperate enough to try it.

I found a simple recipe, made up a batch, and much to my surprise, it was quite delicious. I’ve tried several other versions, in particular one made with mushrooms. It appears that barley is fairly adaptable, so you could probably combine it with whatever you desire, and season to taste.

My favorite remains the very first recipe I prepared. It’s from “The New Book of Whole Grains” by Marlene Anne Bumgarner. Bumgarner recommends searching for natural brown barley, but it’s very difficult to find. In the States, generally all that’s available is pearled barley, which has been hulled and processed. Pearled barley doesn’t have as much nutrients as the unprocessed grains.

Barley Gruel

1 cup coarsely cracked barley, soaked overnight
2 cups water
½ teaspoon salt

Bring water and salt to a boil. Add barley, cover, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, or until moisture is absorbed. Serve with honey and milk, perhaps topped with fresh fruit.

According to Bumgarner, gruel is just another word for porridge. So I guess those little orphans weren’t so abused after all. And I might have tried it sooner if I’d known that’s all it was!


Bliss Addison said...

Yes, porridge. The nutritional, and quite possibly, the only breakfast food of years and years ago. We should take an example from those homemakers.
At least once a week in the winter months (8), I make a barley soup. I use pot barley, though, (I find pearl barley gets thick and mushy, which is probably the reason it is used for porridge).
I have to agree with you. "Gruel" sounds "cruel", but names can be deceiving.


Sanchona said...

Hi Sandra,

Try my special Chinese Chicken Rice Congee for 2?

½ cup rice
2 pieces of chicken thigh (or equivalent) — fresh or barbequed
(if you have left over roasted chicken, this will do too)
Onion, cabbage, carrots, celery, lettuce and other veges you fancy or have handy — cut into small pieces.
2-3 cups water (chicken stock, or chicken stock cube with water)
If you are using a large pot, add the liquid in one go. For a smaller pot, add the liquid in stages so they don't spill over.
1 tbs soya sauce
seasoning of salt and pepper

Use a rice cooker if your have one handy

Boil the rice and veges in 1 cup water in medium heat (add another cup of water when the first cup dries up)
Add seasoning and soy sauce and the raw chicken pieces here.
When the rice grains are broken up and the veges are soft (one hour?), the congee is ready.

Add the cooked and shredded pieces of chicken (including the bones) if you are using this.
Add iceberg lettuce broken into small pieces (added in late so the lettuce is cooked but remains crispy).

You could break in an egg (stir well into the congee) if you like.

Add more water if congee is too thick. Let the congee boil for ten minutes and serve.

The rice, vegetable and chicken are so soft, the congee is melts in your mouth.

If you like hot chilli, add some chilli powder with the chicken.

Bon appetit! Let me know how it goes.