Wednesday 17 April 2013

Creamy Lemon Barley Salad with Asparagus and Peppered Almond Feta

Creamy Lemon Barley Salad with Asparagus and Peppered Feta - vegan.
(First, a huge thank you to everyone who voted for me in The Vegan Woman's 2013 Food Blog Guide!! Second place is such an honour and there was such lovely things said there. Makes it all worthwhile. Thank you.)

Now - Finally! A new recipe!! I should say that I haven't been completely inactive on the blog front, if you follow the daily blog you'll know I've been revisiting a lot of my older posts and trying different variations of things and updating those posts accordingly. 

I made things like....

 ...Kahlua Chocolate Mousse from the Triple Layer Mousse Dessert in individual cups...

 ....a gorgeous pizza loaded with roasted veg, toasted pine nuts, black olives, rocket and drizzled with balsamic vinegar...(ok, that's not an updated recipe but it was so good I had to show it here!).....

 ....these salad rolls by Rawthentic but made my own spicy nut butter dip (stunning!!).....

.....a variation of my Crispy Fried Tofu in Spicy Teriyaki Sauce for my tofu hating husband replacing it with sugar snap peas, asparagus and chick peas...a wonderful option for the tofu haters!.....

For Easter dinner I made these bunny rolls using my Light and Fluffy Pull Apart Rolls recipe - ok, they turned out a little bit like bunny/kitty hybrids but they're cute so we'll forgive that!

So, I have been busy updating the blog, there's just not been a NEW post for awhile....until now! 

Back to the feature post  - Creamy Lemon Barley Salad with Asparagus and Peppered Almond Feta. This is a lovely salad: cool, creamy and zesty with perfect hits of peppery almond feta, crunchy pine nuts and fresh mint and featuring my all time favourite veg - asparagus, now in season :-)

I opted for barley here as I love it but only have one other recipe on the blog using it - the Barley Hotpot so I figured I was well due a barley post. Then I saw this barley salad on The Kitchn and was inspired to make a salad with it. You can of course use any grain you like here if barley isn't your thing - couscous, bulgher, quinoa, rice, even orzo, but we both really liked the different texture barley brings to this.

Creamy Lemon Barley Salad with Asparagus and Peppered Feta - vegan.

The shining star here is the peppered almond feta. It is just that - the almond feta with a lot of coarsely ground black pepper added and I love it so much I honestly think I might just always make it this way from now on! It's not an overpowering amount of black pepper, just a nice gentle hit of it which naturally goes beautifully with the lemon flavours in this.

The dressing is a slight adaptation of this Creamy Lemon Dressing but I replaced the sour cream with the "yogurt cheese" from Miyoko's "Artisan Vegan Cheese" cookbook. It sounds complicated but it literally is just drained soy yogurt. Draining the yogurt off makes it much thicker giving you a really creamy dressing. This does mean that this recipe requires making 2 homemade vegan cheeses and thus takes a couple days to do but nothing is complicated, just a bit of waiting. Just note that you'll need to start this a couple days before....

Creamy Lemon Barley Salad with Asparagus and Peppered Feta - vegan.

Creamy Lemon Barley Salad with Asparagus and Peppered Almond Feta
serves 4 as a main salad

• 200g / 1 cup pearl barley
• ½ cup or more of the Creamy Lemon Dressing (recipe follows)
• 150g asparagus, ends snapped off and sliced into 1 inch pieces
• 2 shallots, sliced or chopped
• 25g / 2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
• 1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
• some Peppered Almond Feta (recipe follows)

Creamy Lemon Dressing - note this makes extra!

• 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (generally the juice of 2 large lemons)
• zest of 1 large lemon
• 3 cloves of garlic, pureed (I use a fine microplane grater)
• 2 tsp dijon mustard
• 2 tsp syrup sweetener *
• ½ tsp sea salt
• ½ cup olive oil
• ½ cup yogurt cheese (recipe follows and makes extra)

* I love to use Sweet Freedom syrup here which is vegan but tastes so much like honey it's unbelievable....but you can use light agave or maple syrup here.

First make the yogurt cheese - line a sieve with 3 layers of cheesecloth, place it over a bowl and add 500g or 2 cups of plain (not sweet) soy yogurt:

Fold over the overhanging cheesecloth to gently cover the yogurt then leave it out to drain at room temperature for 24 hours.

The next day you should have quite a bit of liquid drained off - see, that's the stuff you don't want watering down your dressing!!

....and you should have a much firmer amount of yogurt:

Tip this into a bowl, cover with cling film and chill until needed. I highly recommend getting Miyoko's cookbook as she has great cheese spread recipes using this stuff. Makes better cream cheese than Tofutti's!! I like to add some salt, dried dill, onion and garlic powder for a great bagel spread with the leftover yogurt cheese here.

To make the salad dressing, add the lemon juice, zest, garlic, dijon and salt into a medium sized bowl and whisk well. Slowly start adding the olive oil whisking all the while until fully incorporated. Add the ½ cup of yogurt cheese and whisk well. Now add the sweetener to taste - I used 2 teaspoons. Keep in mind the dressing might seem quite strong in lemon flavour at this point but it mellows a LOT in the salad. This is definitely one of those salad's where everything only comes together taste wise at the very end :-)

Creamy Lemon Barley Salad with Asparagus and Peppered Feta - vegan.

Peppered Almond Feta:

Just make the Almond Feta as per the recipe on the blog here but add ½ tsp of coarsely freshly ground black pepper while blending. For me that was 40 grinds with my pepper grinder set on coarse. It should look nice and speckled like this:

Follow the instructions as stated, draining overnight in the fridge then baking it off the next morning. I also baked mine slightly longer for this one as I wanted a more crumbly feta in the salad - 45 - 50 minutes instead.

NOW the Salad!

Wash the barley very well under several rinses of cold water. Place in a large saucepan and cover well with cold water. Bring to the boil then simmer covered for about 1 hour, stir now and again. (Alternatively you may just want to follow the instructions on your pack of pearl barley as I have found every pack I buy says something different!)

Drain and rinse the barley under cold water, shake off any excess water then place in a large bowl.

Boil the asparagus in salted water until just fork tender, depending on how thick the asparagus is this may take 3 minutes or 6. Have a bowl filled with ice water ready, drain the asparagus, run under cold water then plunge them into the ice water. This will stop them cooking and help them retain their bright green colour and crispness in the salad. Once cold drain then tip onto a clean tea towel and pat dry with paper towels just to remove any excess water as you don't want that watering down the salad.

Add the asparagus to the barley with the shallots, toasted pine nuts and fresh mint. Pour over about ½ cup of the dressing and fold it in with a rubber spatula until well mixed. 

Now, I don't add the feta at this stage as when you mix it in it will turn creamy and disappear a bit. I prefer to crumble the feta onto my salad just before eating and gently mix it in with my fork while eating to keep it chunky. That being said my husband actually preferred the feta stirred in until creamy and if you are making this salad for a buffet then just make it easy for yourself and add the feta now. I haven't given an amount of feta here, just eyeball it,  you won't need all the feta but do use a good amount, it's those hits of peppered feta that MAKE this salad!

Cover the salad with cling film and chill well - I found this salad best the next day when the flavours have more time to mellow and infuse.

To serve, add another little drizzle of dressing then crumble over a good bit of peppered feta (unless you added it earlier) and a sprig of fresh mint. 

Sorry there is no nutritional information for this one but it was impossible to calculate as the dressing and feta amounts are random.

NOTE - click here for some ideas on what to do with all the leftover salad dressing, yogurt cheese and feta - including spreads, pizza and salad!

Creamy Lemon Barley Salad with Asparagus and Peppered Feta - vegan.

You Might Also Like:

Mediterranean Couscous
Salad with Almond Feta
Roasted Red Pepper and Asparagus
Flan with Almond Feta


  1. You really do cook and eat the most amazing looking food!

  2. You have been cooking up a storm! Everything looks scrumptious, particularly this salad for a barley-lover like me. Just one q, which brand of soy yogurt do you use? The only unsweetened one I know of is sojade in the UK and although my health food shop stocks it most of the time they often run out...

    1. Thanks! I use either Alpro plain or Provamel plain which I just realized aren't truly unsweetened as they do contain a bit of sweetener, I'll update the post to say 'plain' yogurt so there is no confusion there. Just as long as the yogurt isn't a sweet flavoured type it'll be fine :-)

      For this one I used Provamel plain which isn't very sweet at all.

  3. Amazing pics and recipes!! Yumm. Great inspiration. Thank you for sharing!!


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