Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Curried Spinach and Barley

The next grain to be featured in my great grains series is Barley. Barley is not a gluten free grain (This is a correction to the original post! Barley is not gluten free, so beware. I'm very sorry for the misinformation. I'd try the recipe with buckwheat if you are avoiding gluten). Most people have heard of barley, but have no idea how to cook with, beyond grandma's barley stew which was good... but not too exciting. But barley is worth your time! For every 100 calories of barley, you get 3g of protein and 4g of fiber (compare that to quinoa and whole wheat). Barley protein is low in lysine, but that is addressed in the recipe below, which couples it with giant lima beans and spinach (both complete proteins). Additionally, barley is a good source of selenium, which plays an important role in regulating inflammation and immune response.

Today's recipe combines some interesting ingredients to give a new flavor to barley that you might not have expected would work. It also freezes super well (you can see in my picture... that's the recipe revived from 3 weeks in the freezer for a quick lunch at work). The barley is paired with spinach, tomatoes, and giant lima beans, which round out the amino acid profile of the protein and add potent anti-oxidants. The whole medley is flavored with a mild curry sauce centered around turmeric, which is known to be potently anti-inflammatory.

Curried Spinach and Barley

1 cup dried barley
1 cup dried giant lima beans (or 1 can white beans)
1 can light coconut milk
vegetable broth (or bullion and water) as desired
1 can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
1/2 package frozen spinach
1T turmeric
1T cumin
1/2T garlic
1/2t ginger
dash red pepper flakes

1. Wash dried lima beans and place in crock pot with ample water. Let cook on high heat for ~6 hours. Once soft, drain and wash.
2. Rinse dried barley and place in a pot with ample water. Bring to a boil for 40 minutes, until barley is soft. (Alternatively, both the barley and beans can be made in the crock pot, but both take several hours, so you would have to think ahead and perhaps make one overnight the night before, and then the other while you are at work for the day.)
3. Once barley and beans are ready, making the curry sauce is pretty quick. In a large saucepan, combine coconut milk, spinach, tomatoes, and spices. Bring to a simmer. (If you feel like you need more liquid, add some vegetable broth to thin it out.) Once spinach has cooked through, add beans and simmer for an additional few minutes so that the beans can take on the flavor.
4. Serve over barley and enjoy immediately! Alternatively once it cools, you can package into ziplock bags and freeze to enjoy later.


  1. Really? It's GF? I thought the gluten in beer came from all the barley.

  2. Sam, I stand corrected... Probably wrote this post late at night without double-checking my sources. You know, since I was wasting my time doing science during my alert hours =P I don't know where my confusion came from.

  3. I was thinking of buckwheat all along. I can't believe after almost 10 years of trying to watch out for gluten free buddies that I made that mistake =(

  4. also, this barley beer had me confused