Broccoli, Barley and Blue Cheese Bake

This uses a traditional grain- the humble pearl barley. I consider this a  ‘meaty’ grain as it is nice and substantial, and brings an interesting texture to a dish. It is also cheap to buy. This wholesome bake is a complete meal in itself as it contains all the elements for a little person’s dinner: protein, carbohydrate, fat and vegetables. This dish can be made and served straight away or prepared in advance and then heated in the oven. Either way, the dish is warming, substantial and tasty. This is another dish that A-L has always eaten (I was initially a bit worried about how she would take to these chunky grains but pleasantly surprised when she happily munched away!). This recipe serves 4 adults and 1 toddler.

Ingredients

  • Glug oil and knob of butter
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small celery stick, chopped finely
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped finely or crushed
  • 200 g pearl barley, washed
  • 1 pint low salt vegetable stock
  • 1 large head of broccoli, broken into florets
  • 1 pint of milk
  • 50g butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 75g blue cheese (I used a stilton)
  • Nutmeg (optional)
  • Cheddar cheese to grate over the top (optional)

Instructions

There are 3 stages to this recipe. Each is very simple and can be done simultaneously. I actually managed to make this dish whilst checking in on my daughter when she kept waking from her  lunchtime nap due to a cough.

  1. Cook the pearl barley. To do so, fry the onion, celery, and garlic in the oil/ butter for a few minutes. Add the pearl barley, stirring so that it is coated in the butter/oil mix. Pour in the stock and simmer, with a lid on, for around 40 minutes or until the barley is cooked. In the meantime, you can make the cheese sauce and cook the broccoli.
  2. Make the cheese sauce. I follow the all-in-one method so put the milk, butter, and flour into a pan. Gently warm the mixture as you stir/ whisk continuously. All the butter should melt and the flour should dissolve. Keep stirring until everything is well combined into a smooth, thick and glossy sauce (usually when it starts to simmer). Remove from the heat, add in the cheese and a bit of grated nutmeg if using. Stir well until all the cheese is melted.
  3. Steam/ boil the broccoli. This should take maximum 10 minutes, depending on how well cooked you like your broccoli. Check every so often until the broccoli is cooked to your liking.
  4. To put the dish together (see photos): Pour the barley into a casserole dish. Arrange the cooked broccoli over the top. Pour the cheese sauce over the broccoli so that there is a nice thick layer. If you want to add some cheddar cheese, grate a layer over the top. Grill until golden on top or put in the oven for 30 minutes at 200c.

  • Nutritional Highlights: Broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse with iron, calcium, and lots of vitamins including A, C and K. Pearl barley is a good source of fibre, and also contains iron. The cheese sauce also adds calcium and brings protein, B12 and zinc to the dish.
  • First served at: 12 months
  • A-L rating: Eats it every time.
  • Freezer friendly? Yes.
  • Adult adaption: We tend to add a bit more salt.
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