If you want to kick start a sluggish digestive system, this recipe works wonders. It is light, yet filling and the herbs and fragrant spices make the grains blossom to life.

I am addicted to pearl barley, one of the most overlooked supergrains. I use it regularly as a wonderful substitute to pasta and it works beautifully when stewed in thick tomato based soups. The wild rice adds such a nuttiness to this dish and infuses an earthy aromatic depth of flavour, so these two grains are on top of my recipe list for healthy eating this week.

Pearl Barley is a low glycemic grain (remember the very famous Low G.I Diet?) and basically is high in both soluble and insoluble fibre. The soluble fibre helps the body to metabolise fats, cholesterol and carbohydrates (i.e, helps you rid of ‘bad’ fats, lowering your blood cholesterol) and the insoluble fibre acts like a roughage broom, sweeping up your digestive system. It’s a great source of selenium that helps to reduce the risk of colon cancer and is full of antioxidants that helps in lowering the risk of breast cancer.

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Black rice is one of those ingredients that I am sure you glance over in the rice section…DON’T!! This rice is an unsung hero and sits tall in the royal category of health giving foods. So, what’s exciting about it? Everyone knows how blueberries are packed with anthocyanins, the big antioxidant that gives it their famous dark colouring. Well black rice holds the same compounds and it is this same ingredient that helps in preventing heart attacks. It was so prized by the Chinese, that during a certain period in history, it was reserved only for the consumption of the Emperor.  Stock it up and use it to bring texture and vibrancy to your salads and mix it up with brown rice when you want to replace white rice from your diet.

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The recipe below is a massive hit in my household and it is something I always pack for picnics. Packed with flavour, you will find yourself making this over and over again. Enjoy!

¾  cup pearl barley, lightly washed and drained

1 cup Black rice ( if you can get your hands on Wild rice, even better – washed and drained)

¾ cup of finely chopped sundried tomatoes

¾ cup of finely chopped feta cheese

1 bunch of green spring onion, finely sliced

1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped

1 bunch dill, finely chopped

½ cup black olives, finely chopped

2 tbs capers, finely chopped

1 tsp finely minced garlic

½ tsp Spanish paprika

1 tsp oregano

1 tbs sweet mango chutney

1 heaped tbs sundried tomato pesto

2 heaped tbs mascarpone

½ tsp pink and green peppercorns, freshly cracked

Sea salt and cracked Black Pepper

Canola Oil for light frying

Place a deep pan of water to boil. Add the pearl barley, lower the heat and let this cook for 8-10 minutes. Do not overcook the pearl barley until is too soft and starchy. You want to retain an al dente feel to it. Drain with cold water, cover and set aside.

In a separate pan, add 1 tbs of Canola Oil, add the cumin and minced garlic and let this fry for a minute or two, taking care not to burn either.

Now tip in the rice and add 1 ¾ cup of water and a pinch of salt for seasoning. Let this cook for at least 10-12 mins or until the rice is just tender, again leaving it al dente.

Heat a large, wide pan and heat up 2 tbs of Canola Oil until hot but not smoking. Toss in the spring onion and lightly fry for a minute. Now add the sundried tomatoes, the olives, the capers, the Spanish Paprika, the mango chutney, the sundried tomato pesto and the mascarpone. Mix this all together.  Lower the heat and let this mixture slowly cook for just 1 minute, letting the mascarpone melt into the mixture, leaving it with a light creamy sauce.

Now tip in your Pearl Barley, the Black Rice, the parsley, dill and oregano. Next add the feta cheese and the cracked pink and green peppercorns. Very gently fold everything together, infusing all the flavours. Adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper. Take off the heat and serve immediately.

Note : This is also delicious served cold so I always pop it in the fridge and carry it for a scrumptious packed lunch the next day!

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