My love for barley started while living in Singapore, where I learned it is used particularly in Chinese cuisine in several delicious dishes and drinks (barley water and barley tea have many medicinal properties including lowering cholesterol and blood sugar, and providing a good amount of fiber to your diet).
I've been for a long time intimidated by barley - I could never cook it right, it would be chewy, or sticky, and hard to digest (for me at least). Then a few ago I learned a great trick from a friend from Singapore - you soak it overnight in water and the juice of half lemon. The next day you just drain and cook. The lemon helps barley retain its nutrients and speeds up cooking time by a lot and gives you a barley that is not chewy at all. The same process works also for brown rice, spelt and any other whole grain.
For the mini tikki, I used moong dal (mung, yellow split peas) - crunchy, spicy little nuggets that you can’t help popping one after the other in your mouth!
Tikki are a delicious snack originating from the Indian subcontinent; in Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi preparation, they can be made of boiled potatoes, peas, lentils, beetroot or various other vegetables that are mixed with spices (which may vary depending on the region) and then usually deep fried.
Perfect for this weather, I love this warm salad because it has a nice combo of textures, flavours and beautiful colours. I chose some typically Mediterranean flavours - artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil. They marry really well with the mild spices in the tikki, but the beauty of it is you can really customise it to your liking.
Ingredients (for 2)
For the barley salad:
Pearl barley - 1 cup
Lemons - 1
Sun-dried cherry tomatoes marinated in oil - 3 tbsp, oil drained and chopped
Artichoke hearts marinated in oil - 3 tbsp, oil drained and chopped
Mange tout or sugar snap peas - 100g, halved
Walnuts - 50g, chopped
Raisins - 2 tbsp
Mint - a small bunch
Micro herbs to garnish (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
For the mini moong tikki:
Split yellow mung lentils - 1 cup
Cilantro - 1 small bunch
Parsley - 1 small bunch
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Green chilli - 1 or 2 depending on taste
Black pepper - 1/2 tsp
Baking soda - 1/2 tsp
Sesame seeds - 2 tbsp
The juice of half lemon
Salt to taste
Oil for frying
The night before: soak pearl barley in plenty of water and the juice of half lemon. Separately, also soak mung lentils in enough water to cover by two fingers.
The next day, drain water and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the barley. Cook for around 7-8 minutes or until the barley is cooked through, then drain.
Transfer to a bowl and season with salt and pepper then add the remaining half lemon, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, mange tout, walnuts, mint, raisins. Garnish with micro herbs and set aside.
Add all the tikki ingredients (minus the oil) to a food processor. Run the food processor 40 seconds at a time until all is well combined forming the tikki mixture. The mix should hold its shape when pressed in your palm.
Heat the oil to 140°C, form tiny balls with the tikki mixture and fry in batches. Drain excess oil on kitchen paper and serve along with the barley salad. You can also bake them at 200°C for a lighter, though less crispy, version.