When I am making anything that calls for barley (or pasta) I always cook it on the side and add to the plates as I am serving. That way, it does not over cook and everyone can take as much or as little as they want!
I usually use pearl barley which takes longer to cook, but barley does act a bit pasta like in that the longer it sits in broth the more it puffs and puffs and....I will confess I do like barley though. As to the flavor, quite honestly since i'm also trying to cut down on sodium, no one wants to admit it (everyone is too busy ranting about too much salt in canned stuff, but yelping when the salt is taken out)but nothing beats a bit of salt. I posted a fish soup on line which someone commented didn't have flavor and i had ditched all of the additional salt in the recipe and i'm sure that was the reason. I suspect a small amount of salt would make a difference but....i find things taste sweeter and more delicate without salt. Anyway...that's my 2 cents for what it's worth.
1) Quick-cooking barley swells up a lot more than you might think. I ended up with WAY too much barley in this soup. I suspect that I'll have a lot of beef-flavored barley once the beef, carrots and mushrooms run out. Oh well, I can freeze it for side dishes with hamburger, I guess.
2) I used a lot of richly flavored ingredients in it: beef, mushrooms, carrots and unsalted beef broth. I'm trying to cut down on sodium and I thought those flavors would be enough. It did taste good, but there was something a bit missing. Pepper, maybe? Possibly a few herbs, but I didn't know what.
Try, try again...
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