My New Best Friend Barley

I tried it. I liked it. And I made it again, and again. That’s the way it went with this Sausage and Barley Jambalaya recipe. It wasn’t the first time I’d had barley, as my blogging pal Eva at KitchenInspirations has been making barley risotto for a long time because of its health benefits.

Barley deserves all the credit for giving this dish a lovely nutty and creamy texture that is quite unique. It also makes the dish hearty, filling and good for you!

A cereal grain, barley is heralded for its ability to help reduce cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, among other benefits. Go figure! It is also what I would call a “low profile” grain—it goes along its way quietly, while quinoa continues to make a splash in culinary circles, even landing a couple of book deals. I find it all a bit surprising, given that barley is a key ingredient in one of the world’s most popular drinks.

I decided that since I liked the Barley Jambalaya so much, that I needed to try it in something else, something other than a soup or a stew. So, I came up with a new barley salad that I think you may like…

It’s a Mediterranean Salad that combines all of my favourite summer flavours—olives, basil, feta, grape tomatoes, lemon and roasted red pepper. 

There you have it. There are lots of reasons to give barley at try—it’s inexpensive, versatile and a healthy alternative to orzo or rice.

If you decide that barley isn’t for you, then you might like Betsy’s Couscous Salad, over at Bits and Breadcrumbs, which also features kalamata olives, basil and feta with a lovely lemon dressing.

Sausage and Barley Jambalaya

Slightly adapted from Judith Finlayson’s, Delicious & Dependable Slow Cooker Recipes

  • 1 lb mild Italian sausage, removed from casings
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cracked black peppercorns
  • 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed well
  • 1 can  (28 oz/796 mL) diced tomatoes, including juice
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 8 oz medium shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined
  • 1 roasted red pepper, chopped (I use jarred)


  1. Cook sausage over medium-high heat, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink. Transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Drain excess fat from pan. At medium heat, sauté onions until softened. Add garlic, thyme, paprika, oregano, salt, pepper and cook for one minute. Add barley and stir well. Add tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boi.
  3. Pour mixture over sausage and stir. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours. Add shrimp and roasted pepper. Cover and cook on high for 20 minutes, until shrimp is heated through.

 Mediterranean Barley Salad

  • 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed well under running water
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 6 to 7 fresh basil leaves finely chopped
  • ¾ cup feta, diced (I used low fat feta)
  • 2.5 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • ¼ cup roasted red pepper, finely chopped (I use jarred)
  • ¼ cup kalamata olives (pits removed and ripped in half)
  • ½ cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 scallions, sliced finely


  1. Add rinsed barley, along with 3 cups of water to medium saucepan. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for 20 to 25 minutes. Drain excess water and allow barley to cool to room temperature in a large bowl.
  2. Mix lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and basil in small bowl. Add mixture to barley and stir well. Add feta, pine nuts, red pepper, olives, tomatoes and scallions. Mix well. Serve at room temperature.

Two Rivals Join Forces

My husband has had a thing for Jambalaya for quite some time now. But sometimes he cheats on his great love and goes out with Risotto. What’s a guy to do when he’s torn between two (or three) loves?

But those days are over, now that I’ve brought these two rivals together by creating Jambalaya Risotto just for him. (It’s easier to keep my eye on them this way.) His days of sneaking around are over—hopefully!

 Jambalaya Risotto

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 large shallots, chopped (or 3 small shallots)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups of Arborio rice
  • ½ cup wine or verjus
  • 1 900 ml box of chicken stock, plus 1.5 cups hot water
  • ¾ cup diced tomato (fresh or canned)
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • ½ pound shrimp (deveined, precooked, tails removed)
  • 3 large andouille sausages (or 4 small sausages/see tips)
  • 1 small chicken breast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne

In a large sauté pan, add 1 tbsp olive oil. Cook chicken for 10 minutes per side and remove from pan and slice into small pieces. Add remaining 1 tbsp olive oil and cook sausage for 8 minutes per side. Remove from pan and slice. (You can sauté the sliced sausage for 2 minutes to brown each piece nicely.)

Bring broth and water to a simmer in a saucepan. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat and cook onion, until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, another 2 minutes. Add green pepper and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. Add thyme, paprika, salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir in rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine (or verjus) and cook, stirring, until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, chicken breast and sausage and mix well. Stir 1 cup simmering broth into rice and cook, stirring constantly and keeping at a strong simmer, until absorbed. Continue cooking and adding broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next. Add shrimp when you have approximately 1 cup of broth remaining. Continue adding broth until rice is just tender and creamy-looking but still al dente. (Total time about 18 to 22 minutes.)


  • Andouille sausage can be tricky to find. I buy mine at the Sausage King in St. Lawrence Market. You can substitute with kielbasa or italian sausage.
  • You can use uncooked shrimp–I use precooked as a short cut. Just be sure to add them to the rice 4 or so minutes before the rice is cooked to ensure they cook through.
  • You’ll note that I used red pepper in my photographed version. I had a red pepper in the house that I needed to use up. However, the green pepper adds a nice contrast to the tomatoes.
  • If you use canned tomatoes, you can freeze the leftovers for your next batch of pasta sauce.
  • I hold back on the spice for this because of our ponytails. You can take it up a notch by adding a little more cayenne.
  • Garnish with parsley or chives. I normally do this, but was a bit stretched for time this round.