You can hurry them along with pressure cookers and such I guess, but I prefer just to plan around them.
Barley's like that.
We buy pot barley (which has its bran still intact) and it requires a fair bit of time on the stove. We value the extra fibre the barley's bran brings to the party, so we reckon it's worth the wait.
I have a fairly busy schedule so allowing time for long cooking dishes requires some planning on my part. I try to cook ahead on weekends so that I have those dishes waiting for me, ready to use, on busy weeknights. It's a strategy that works particularly well with barley.
Barley pudding is one of my favourite make-ahead barley dishes. It'll keep in the fridge for several days. Like rice pudding, it's a comforting, old-fashioned dish; not too sweet. You can eat it for breakfast but it's definitely dessert-worthy too, especially when topped with fruit and served with a little cream on the side.
Barley pudding is an all-day-at home dish. It takes a long time to cook. Don't plan on making it on a day when you have to rush out the door. Plan, instead, to make it on a day when you know you'll be busy with household chores. It'll cook while you're working away and, as long as you can find time to check on it now and again, it's a fuss free dish.
This recipe makes four generous servings of pudding. It's easy to adjust that number up or down, and the pudding turns out well whether you make a little or a lot.
To make barley pudding you'll need:
- 2 cups evaporated milk (I used fat free evaporated milk but any you prefer will work)
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup pot barley
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 to 2/3 cups of raisins (2 to 3 Tablespoons per serving)
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 Tablespoons of brown sugar (Or to taste. We prefer our pudding not especially sweet but my grandchildren always sprinkle more sugar over the top when I serve it.)
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- more evaporated milk (The quantity may vary, but I used about 1 more cup for this batch.)
Begin by stirring the evaporated milk and water together in the top of a double boiler. (I don't have a double boiler large enough for this so I use a pot and one of my pyrex bowls. If you're cooking a large enough quantity you can do this step in the slow cooker instead.)
Add in the barley and salt.
Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer. Cover it with a lid and allow the barley to cook until it has a texture resembling al dente pasta. This can take two or three hours depending upon how low you set the heat.
The milk will begin to caramelize a bit and may form a skin on top.
Pluck the skin from the top of the milk then drain the cooked barley, reserving the cooking liquid.
Put your raisins in a heat proof bowl or measuring cup and cover them with boiling water. Allow then to rest until the water cools to lukewarm. They'll pump up a bit, and soften.
Drain the raisins. (I reserve the soaking water for use in baked goods or pancakes. There's good flavour there.)
Portion the raisins equally into ovenproof custard cups or ramekins. Divide the cooked barley evenly between the cooking dishes too.
Stir the raisins and barley together and then smooth the top of each serving with the back of your spoon.
Separate your egg yolks and reserve the whites for another dish. (I freeze them in ice cube trays until I need them.)
Add the brown sugar and nutmeg to the egg yolks and beat them together until the sugar dissolves.
Add enough evaporated milk to your reserved cooking liquid to make a total of 2 cups.
Whisk the milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, stirring until no distinct strands of yolk remain.
Pour the egg and milk mixture over the barley mixture in each cooking dish, covering the barley by about 1/4 inch.
(You may have some extra egg and milk mixture left over. If you want to, you can bake it in a separate dish. It makes a lovely custard.)
Bake the puddings in a 350F oven until they're mostly set (they should still be a little jiggly in the middle) and golden on top.
Serve barley pudding warm or cold. It's firmer than rice pudding so you may want to serve some cream on the side, for pouring over the pudding. It's delicious topped with fresh or canned fruit.