Barley is used quite a lot in Scottish soups and stews. It has also become trendy over the past few years to use it in upmarket restaurants in place of the ubiquitous puy lentils - as in 'served on a bed of barley'...!
Barley can absorb an amazing amount of liquid, more than rice. So if you want to cook it via the absorption method -- that is, add the grain to boiling water, cover, and simmer until tender -- you need to use a ratio of 3:1 by volume (3 cups water to 1 cup barley). And if you add some to soup, add a lot less than you think you'll need, because otherwise you might end up with soup-flavored barley sludge.
I love the chewy texture, and the flavor. I recently made some mushroom-barley soup using beef stock and mushroom soaking liquid. Good!!
Just used barley last week for the first time in a beef/tomato/barley soup. I put in more than I should have and it truly was like brothy barley sludge but the taste was great, I'll just use less next time. I learn through trial and error and this error was definitely tasty. It takes a lot longer for barley to cook than rice or pasta. Keep it at a low simmer rather than a hard boil or else it will cling to the bottom of your pot.
Thanks guys! Good to know about adding lots to a soup, will tend to become a sludge-like consistency. I always have a tendency to add more rice or pasta in a soup than there really should be because I just can't help myself....one of the best parts in a soup.
How about the old favorite Baked Egg Barley and Mushrooms on a cold winter night. In NY if you had a Hassiddic Wedding ,if you did not have the barley , kasha and Kishka you were not officially married. I think BDL will verify this.
Consider it verified although you've got some East coast yiddisheh cookers who were and are more into that scene than I, on the west coast, ever was. Most of what I know about that world was passed to me through my grandmothers.
I used a cup of pearl barley and a 14 or 16 oz can of chicken broth and stirred non-stop for about 50min. I like my barey pretty chewey though. If you don't try more stock and more time. Totally worth the effort!!!
I love barley, and mushroom barley soup is a favorite of mine. The other posters are spot-on but I'll offer one last bit of advice; where I live the stores carry "regular" barley and "quick cook" barley. The latter only takes about 20 minutes, and apparently is par roasted or something. Just be sure to adjust cooking time accordingly.
I have never used barley before, but I decided to make an oxtail barley soup recently. I used a whole package of barley in the soup and realized at some point that it was WAAAAAAAY too much. I ended up straining out about 2/3 of what was in the dutch oven. Lesson learned...take it easy with the barley! It was really a nice addition, though.