Asparagus, broccolini and barley salad

Asparagus, broccolini and barley salad


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 โ€“ 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.


Serves 6
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.

14 thoughts on “Asparagus, broccolini and barley salad”

  • I’ve had the same lackluster experiences with asparagus, which is why I usually avoid it, haha – but that salad makes me want to revisit the flavor and texture of asparagus! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • okay, so what’s your secret for keeping asparagus from being so smelly as it exits down the line? is that an inappropriate question? if so, i apologize. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • ha ha not an inappropriate question at all. Although I’m sorry I can’t answer it, but I think Susie, our resistant chemistry star can, so I will hand it over to her ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Ha ha that’s a funny question. I actually looked this up recently because in the height of spring I tend to go overboard with the asparagus and ah…yeah…the results aren’t that pleasant. Apparently the smell is due to sulphur containing compounds and ammonia. It’s also worse in ‘younger’ and white asparagus, so for a start avoid those! The other interesting thing is only 22% of the population can smell it, you’re clearly one of the genetically blessed Grace :). The short end of it is though that the sulphur compounds and ammonia are a natural product from the break down of the asparagus and I don’t think there’s much you can do about it. I usually drink lots of water before and after and it seems to ‘dull’ the effect. Also the ‘effect’ occurs 15-30min after ingestion so perhaps resist the urge for the bathroom til you’ve consumed enough water to dilute it a bit.

  • Hi Lauren,

    If you were making this salad in a rush, do you think it would work just to run the barley under cold water to cool it down quickly? I do that quite often with pasta salads and it seems to work a treat!

  • Hi Lauren,

    Another question for you…I liked the look of this salad so much I made it last night – delicious! But when I refreshed my asparagus and broccolini into iced water to stop the cooking process, I noticed that they lost a lot of their “greeness” and seemed to go a bit light green-yellow. It still tasted great, but the green vegetables just weren’t so “radiant” green. Do you know why this might happen? Is there anything I can do to stop it from happening again?

  • Hmmm. Can’t say I have encountered this problem myself. The colour of the vegetables in the photographs is pretty true. There is some thinking that ‘shocking’ vegetables in iced water after cooking can cause them to lose nutrients and this may be what you are seeing with your colour loss. Personally I think it is more important to halt the cooking process and prevent soggy asparagus, but you could undercook and then let it cool naturally รขโ‚ฌโ€œ this may help preserve the colour. Alternatively, you could try simply using cold water out of the tap, rather than iced water so the shock is lessened. Iรขโ‚ฌโ„ขm curious to see ho you go with this รขโ‚ฌโ€œ keep us informed!
    Happy cooking ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Delicious recipe!

    I swapped the broccollini with avocados and shoved in some left over veges… sorry to butcher your recipe… Barley is so moreish and the dressing is refreshing that refreshing that unlike many moreish dishes this still one makes you feel like you’ve had a healthy dinner.

    Thanks for the recipe.

  • Made this today for a Grand Final function. It was delicious and was very favorably commented on. It was so healthy and fresh tasting. This will be a recipe that I am going to be doing a lot of. Barley is such an under rated grain. I love it. Thank-you.

  • Thanks Nicki I’m glad you enjoyed the salad – you’re quite right, Barley is an underrated grain. So tasty and nutritious! I’m looking forward to eating more food like t his as the weather warms up and we head into summer ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Instead of steaming the asparagus try and oven roast them under the griller with olive oil,black pepper and a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar. Delicious and no need to refresh under cold water!!!

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