This simple dish is very tasty, and can be served at a winter or spring banquet because it uses only stored foods. This kind of one-pot wonder is very much the sort of dish that Vikings would have cooked.
Serves 10-15 people as a starter.
Soak the barley in cold water for a couple of hours. This reduces the cooking time significantly, thus saving precious fuel. If you forgot to do this and have modern technology available, put the barley in a pot when you start cooking, pour boiling water on it and let it stand until you need to add it to the bacon and onion. This will take quite a while off the cooking time. If you don't presoak barley at all it can take an hour or more to cook.
Melt the butter in a big saucepan. Add the onion and saute for a couple of minutes. Then add the bacon and continue to fry gently, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes or until the bacon is no longer pink.
Add the barley, herbs and pepper. Stir it around and then add water until the barley is covered to a depth of about an inch. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Then uncover and continue to cook for another 15-25 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary, until the barley is tender and the water all absorbed.
A vegetarian version can be made by frying vegetables such as leeks, carrots, mushrooms and nuts with the onion, and optionally adding dried fruit with the barley.Shelagh Lewins
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