Asparagus, broccolini and barley salad

Photographer: Adam
Serves 6

I have to confess that I am only a recent convert to the virtues of asparagus. Too many bad experiences with limp, over-cooked soggy stems had left me thinking it was one thing I was never going to get involved with. But my vegetarian friend makes this incredible salad, only very lightly steaming the asparagus and combining it with zesty lemon and creamy feta and I am now a total convert.

It is one of those vegetables that epitomises spring, an inspiring sight at the farmers market signalling the end of what can be a long, cold winter in Dunedin. Along with broccolini, it makes this salad packed with antioxidants and is such a welcome sight after a winter of gorging myself on heavier cuisine. This salad makes for a great lunch or vegetarian dinner option – the barley has a delicious nutty flavour and slightly chewy bite, but if you are looking for a gluten free option, simply substitute for brown rice.


1-1/2 cups pearl barley
4 cups water
3 lemons, zest and juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
70g pine nuts, toasted
1 bunch (250g) asparagus, woody bases of the steams removed
1 bunch (150g) broccolini, trimmed
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
100g creamy feta, cut into 2-3cm cubes


1. Rinse barley and place in a medium-sized saucepan with 4 cups water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes. The barley should be tender and slightly chewy. Drain in a colander, and then lay out on a wide, flat dish to speed up cooling.
2. Make dressing by combining lemon zest and juice, olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Pour half the dressing over the cooked barley, along with half of the toasted pine nuts. Toss thoroughly.
3. Lightly steam the asparagus and broccolini (this will take around 5 minutes), refreshing immediately in iced water to stop the cooking process; they should still be crunchy. Chop into 5cm lengths and set aside.
4. Lay a bed of the barley on a serving platter and top with the asparagus and broccolini pieces, cherry tomatoes, feta, and remaining pine nuts. Pour over remaining dressing immediately before serving.
Serve at room temperature.