I was watching Rick Stein’s marvellous series ‘From Venice to Istanbul’ on tele the other day and loved the look of this Pearl Barley, Pomegranate, Pistachio & Herb Salad that he created during his last stop in Istanbul.
There’s something rather marvellous about the flavour combinations used in the Middle East and the Mediterranean – they challenge our senses and wake up our taste-buds. The moment I clapped eyes on this salad with its shots of ruby red and emerald green, I knew I had to try it! The fact that I had a bottle of pomegranate molasses shoved, unopened, in the back of the cupboard sealed the deal.
The recipe on BBC.co.uk isn’t quite the same as shown on TV – pearl barley was the main ingredient in the programme, while freekah is used in the online version of the recipe. I stayed with pearl barley simply because I liked the look of the larger grains – if you’d prefer the freekah, click on the original recipe link above.
And, on that note, the recipe can be adapted to meet your own needs and preferences. For instance, play around with the amount and type of herbs you use – I love the sweet freshness of mint and added lots of it. Also, I didn’t have any flatleaf parsley, so used the curly kind which was growing freely in my garden. Also, while the recipe uses untoasted pistachios, I felt the crunch factor was missing so I lightly toasted mine.
For me, the defining flavour element of this dish comes from the pomegranate molasses and, just personally, I didn’t find the one tablespoon of pomegranate molasses particularly flavoursome. So, I added a further tablespoon which allowed the intense sweet tartness of the syrup to shine through without being overpowering. However, I recommend you start with one tablespoon and taste to see if you need to add more.
I thoroughly enjoyed this nutty, wholesome salad – it was something a bit different and I loved its unique flavours and textures. And, with its green and red elements, it would make a lovely salad addition to the Christmas table.
PEARL BARLEY, POMEGRANATE, PISTACHIO & HERB SALAD
- 7 oz pearl barley
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 4 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 pomegranate, seeds only
- Handful flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped
- Handful mint, roughly chopped
- 1-2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (I used 2 tbsp)
- 2 tbsp pistachios, lightly toasted and finely chopped
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Put the pearl barley and 1 litre/1¾ pint water in a pan together with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook for about 25-30 minutes or until just tender (it should still have some bite). Drain and allow to cool.
- When cool, mix together the pearl barley with the spring onions, pomegranate seeds and herbs. Season with salt and pepper.
- Whisk together the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil and the pomegranate molasses with a pinch of salt, and dress the salad with it, mixing gently. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust as needed.
- Serve topped with the pistachios.
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