barley, tofu + spinach salad with miso dressing

barley tofu spinach salad miso dressing

I often get stuck in between meals during the transitional months, not quite sure whether its warm enough for a bowl of leafy greens or cool enough to slurp soup. Autumn is funny that way, with its crisp, cool mornings. You’re fooled into thinking you’ll be needing your trackpants all day long, before the sun peeks its nose out from behind that cloud and suddenly you’re sweating underneath all that fleecy clothing. That’s why I welcomed this dish, brimming with warm barley and cool greens – the perfect combination for an autumn evening.

ImageDon’t let the word ‘salad’ deceive you. I was positively satiated once finished, with not one bit of room for anything else (except maybe a piece of chocolate). The barley is packed with both soluble and insolube fibre, the former of which is linked to reducing cholesterol and therefore reducing the risk heart disease. The insoluble fibre keeps your bowels healthy by feeding the good bacteria that live within the gut, and I know you want a healthy bowel. You’ve got your good fats from the avo, protein from the tofu (although I’d recommend not to go crazy on soy-based products unless they are fermented – think miso, soy sauce, tempeh & natto – see more here) and gut-friendly miso for more healthy insides, plus detoxifying asparagus. What more could you want in a midweek meal? Oh, and don’t be shy with the ginger – especially if its cold, as ginger can increase your blood circulation, helpful on those cool evenings.


What I particularly loved about this salad was the saltiness of the miso balanced with the acidity of the rice wine vinegar, and how it all blended seamlessly with the fattiness of the avocado and the crunchy sesame seeds. A lot of texture in this dish, a lot of flavour. Absolutely worth it, thanks Chrissy Freer. You’ve got to get a hold of her Supergrains book – even if you’re not gluten intolerant, but simply need a bit of a shake up when it comes to your tried and tested recipes. I’ve placed the modifications I made to the recipe in brackets after the original suggestion. This is perfect for vegetarians, or if you simply want a meat-free meal. Enjoy!

barley tofu spinach salad miso dressing

barley, tofu + spinach salad with miso dressing (adapted from Supergrains by Chrissy Freer) – serves 4

you’ll need…

  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed in colander
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken)
  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, halved lengthways and cut into 3cm lengths
  • 250g (or thereabouts) of marinated tofu (I used plain), sliced
  • 1 firm, ripe avocado, halved, pit removed, peeled and sliced
  • 120g spinach leaves
  • 1.5 tbsp sesame seeds (I used 2tbsp black sesame seeds)

miso dressing

  • 3 tbsp white miso paste (or whatever colour you can find – just don’t use the sachet soup stuff, its not the real deal)
  • 3 tbsp mirin/Japanese cooking wine (I didn’t have any – I used more rice wine vinegar instead)
  • 2 tbsp tamari (I used soy sauce)
  • 1.5 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (I used raw sugar)

here’s what you do…

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the ginger and garlic, stirring for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add barley and stir for 2 minutes, then add stock and 2 cups of water, bringing to the boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 25 min or until barley is soft but still with a slight firmness. Drain and rinse under cold water, then transfer to large bowl.
  2. Blanch asparagus in saucepan of boiling water (I boiled water, threw in asparagus and left in there for 5 min). Refresh under cold water, then drain well.
  3. For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
  4. Add the asparagus, tofu, avocado, baby spinach and half of the dressing to the barley, gently tossing to combine. Divide the salad between serving plates/bowls, drizzle with a bit more dressing and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. You may want to season and pan-fry the tofu if you choose the plain one if you’d prefer, but I felt the miso dressing lent enough flavour to the tofu anyway.

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