Julia Stephan

Editor at Kitchen Stories

In our Kitchen Stories editorial team, Devan is the queen of 5-ingredient recipes. I love this recipe series as it shows how you only need a handful of ingredients to cook refined meals in everyday life. Dishes such as this breakfast risotto, sausage ragout and sweet potato lentil soup are also great bases to get creative in the kitchen as you can easily modify these recipes according to your own taste.

This is why I felt very excited and motivated when Devan asked me to develop a vegan 5-ingredient recipe for a pearl barley and carrot salad a few weeks ago. I’d find out soon afterwards that Devan somehow manages to makes this look so easy, when in fact, it’s quite challenging to cook with so few ingredients. Try it yourself for your next weeknight dinner: Can you cook a well-balanced, flavorful dish with only 5 ingredients? The rules of the format allow water, oil, salt, and pepper as basic ingredients that you don’t need to count in.

Back in the test kitchen, I had pearl barley and carrots ready to go, but what about the remaining three ingredients? I knew I wanted to roast the carrots in the oven, and I had all kinds of spices I could use in my head. But then the salad also needed a dressing, for which I wanted something acidic, sweet, but also something to bind. And then there were the endless possibilities for crispy salad toppings …

I quickly realized that it didn’t make much sense to focus on how to reduce all my ideas into 3 ingredients. Instead, I thought about how to use selected ingredients in multiple ways. I recently wrote an article on Zero Waste cooking, which inspired me to look at ingredients as a whole. And suddenly, there it was: A zero waste salad recipe with only 5 ingredients.

The 5 ingredients of this salad and how to adapt them:

Pearl barley

I associate pearl barley with a hearty stew from my childhood that my mother used to cook. But ever since then, pearl barley has rarely end up on my plate. It’s a surprise because they are easy to prepare, cook in about 30 minutes, and are easily digestible. The only downside: pearl barley has quite low nutritional values. If you’re looking for something more nutritious, use buckwheat, millet, spelt, or oats instead.

Carrots

While the carrots roast in the oven to develop their sweet flavors, the carrot greens end up in my salad dressing. When I was a kid, I gave these to my guinea pig. Later, I mostly bought carrots without greens at all. Only in the last few months did I begin to mix the carrot greens into pestos, sauces, and salad dressings. It tastes a bit like parsley and contains valuable fiber, minerals, and vitamins–far too many benefits to justify throwing them away!

Orange

I wanted to use an orange and all its components—a fairly straightforward thing to do. The orange slices are added as a juicy salad ingredient, while the juice helps to caramelize the carrots in the oven and adds acidity to the dressing. The orange zest gets sprinkled over the salad for a fresh note and more vibrant color.

Mustard

Mustard is one of my go-to ingredients when it comes to salad dressings and I really didn’t want to kick if from the ingredient list. During test cooking though, it was up against the hard competition of maple syrup. Of course, mustard eventually won and rounds out and binds the dressing. Feel free to choose a mustard of your preference–this salad would also tasty lovely with mild or grainy mustard.

Pistachios

The idea to use pistachios came from our chef Johanna, who supported me in the test kitchen. They add a crunch that contrasts the soft barley and carrots. Roast them in a frying pan in order to develop their best flavor and texture. As an alternative to pistachios, you can also use your favorite nuts or simply add croutons as a salad topping.

Curious to try it for yourself? Here’s the recipe for 5-ingredient pearl barley and carrot salad:

5-ingredient pearl barley and roasted carrot salad

5-ingredient pearl barley and roasted carrot salad

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