Beetroot, Blackeyed Peas and Pearl Barley Salad

Beautiful Little Barley, Beetroot and Black-Eyed Pea Salad


I very rarely make pulse or grain based dishes, yet am always drawn to them when on a menu at a restaurant, particularly any restaurant that offers culinary fare that has its origins in the Middle-East. I love the taste and texture of dishes made with lentils, varieties of beans and in particular pearl barley. In fact pearl barley has always been that homely grain that in my mind always sits wonderfully in a beefy broth. Most of my pulse intake as a kid was limited to a well-known brand of baked bean, although I must say that my grandma and mum did both make a wonderful ham shank and lentil soup, which I absolutely loved and would welcome with open arms (or a dropped mandible) if it was put in front of me now. Black-eyed peas had always fascinated me and hearing of them used in a dish such as black-eyed peas, chicken and stuffing again, I find, has a real family and homely ring to it – actually that dish I’ve just mentioned I’m sure is a lyric in one of the songs from the group  with the same name as the aforementioned pulse.

However, it was during last year’s World Cup that I became more intimately acquainted with the black-eyed pea when I cooked the dish acarajé – a Brasilian deep fried fritter. From there I experimented with a combination of black-eyed pea and pearl barley when I created the dish ‘Slow Braised Lamb with Barley and Black-Eyed Pea Pilaf‘. But I’ve always wanted to do a salad with them and for a while I have envisioned them in combination with fresh mint, olive oil and some lemony zest.

From a preparatory perspective pearl barley and black-eyed peas are one of the few grains/ pulses that do not require an overnight soaking, and can be simmered to a perfect consistency in under an hour. Using them as a base I decided to go with the combination of those aforementioned flavours – you know the mint, olive oil and lemon – but found these alone were not enough to constitute a balanced and hearty salad. I opted on adding an earthy sweetness; roasted red beetroot was a perfect contender. I then added chopped ripe tomatoes for that hit of umami and a crunchy refresher in the form of diced cucumber. Finally, the mint alone, although really good, needed some herby foil, and parsley fit that role to a tee. And there we have it, Barley, Beetroot and Black-Eyed Pea Salad.


Serves: 4 as a main or up to 10 as an accompaniment
Preparation: 30 minutes soaking + 30 minutes Prep.
Cooking: 1 hour (most prep. can be done during cooking)


For the Salad:
200g  Pearl barley |
150g  Black-eyed peas |
1 medium-large  Beetroot | Peeled and diced into 1 cm cubes.
Glug  Olive oil |
Seasoning  Sea salt and cracked black pepper |
Spring onions | Outer layer removed, cleaned and cut into 1cm pieces – both white and light green parts.
Lebanese cucumber | Diced. That’s a small cucumber – if using the larger European variety deseed and use half of it.
2 medium  Ripe tomatoes | Peeled, deseeded and diced.*
1  bunch  Fresh mint | Finely chopped.
½ bunch  Fresh parsley | Finely chopped.


For the Dressing:
1 lemon  Zest of | Finely grated.
2 lemons  Juice of |
The tomato liquid  from the discarded seeds | Optional (see below) – but it does add great flavour.
200ml  Olive oil |

Salt and pepper to taste
Drizzle of olive oil to finish

*Preparing tomatoes like this is known as concasse. To peel the tomatoes score the skin at the tomato base with a cross and put the tomatoes in boiling water for about 10 seconds. Transfer them to ice cold water for about 20 seconds. The skins should be easy to peel. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and scoop out the seeds and any hard core. Retain these for a little trick. Dice the remaining tomato flesh.

The seeds and jelly like substance around the seeds contain a lot of tomato flavour and that amazing taste, umami. It’s a shame to waste it so take the seeds, jelly and any other bits of discarded flesh and blitz them in a miniature food processor until a smooth pulp is formed. Push this pulp through a fine sieve and you’ll be left with a fantastic tomato liquid – use this in the recipe here.



In separate bowls soak the pearl barley and black-eyed peas in enough cold water to cover them. After 30 minutes drain the pearl barley and rinse. With the black-eyed peas, gently scrunch them in your hands whilst still under water to loosen the skins. Remove the skins (this is finicky and requires patience but the reward is in the eating) and then drain and rinse the black-eyed peas – it’s nigh impossible to remove all skins, so a few left on won’t spoil your dish.

Put the pearl barley and black-eyed peas in a large pan together with a couple of pinches of salt and cover with cold water so that the level of water is twice the depth of the barley and peas. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down and gently simmer for 45 minutes.

In the meantime – preheat an oven to 200 deg. C (390 deg. F). Put the diced beetroot in to a roasting tin and then season with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Drizzle over a glug olive oil and mix until all the beetroot is covered. Put in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes,  or until softened but still having some resistance. Put aside to cool.

When the barley and peas are cooked, drain and then wash with cold water until completely cooled down. Drain all excess water until the peas and barley are dry.

For the dressing, add the lemon, lemon zest and tomato liquid (if your are using it) to a medium sized bowl. Now slowly drizzle in the olive oil whilst vigorously whisking. Once all the oil has been added you should have consistent dressing i.e. not split. Taste and season accordingly.

To construct the salad add the peas, barley, roasted beetroot, spring onions, cucumber, tomatoes, mint and parsley to a large salad bowl. Gently mix with a large metal spoon taking care not to squash the peas or barley (this can be stored in the fridge up until service). Just prior to serving drizzle over the dressing and gently mix. Taste. If you’re elated with it then drizzle over a little olive oil and serve**.

Serve in big portions as a main or in smaller portions as an accompaniment.


**If you think it needs a little more then add extra mint, parsley, squeezes of lemon and/ or seasoning according to your taste, gently mix and then add a drizzle of olive oil.

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