Pearl barley, fennel and cranberry salad

Well hello my lovely Kapha friends! As promised this post is especially for you. Kapha is the elemental type that is governed by earth and water which , when balanced, makes you lot the most grounded and easygoing of people. If you’ve had a rough day at work, the love of your life just broke up with you or the bank turned down your loan application for the fifth time I can bet you you’ll be ringing the door bell of your nearest and dearest Kapha friend. For he or she will surely be the one consoling you with warm hugs, soothing words and cookies. Probably lots of cookies! Most likely one for the patient and two for themselves since Kapha’s are notoriously known to have serious sweet tooths. Which is unfortunate given the fact they already are so sweet by nature. And it’s not only in the sweet department  that Kapha’s will have a hard time controlling themselves either. Although they hardly ever get ravenously hungry you’ll have a hard time finding a true Kapha type that will turn down any offering of food. This in combination with a tragicly slow digestion is the reason why many Kapha’s complain of being overweight.

In their defence they’ll say they’re just being polite. The Dutch will say they’re being “gezellig”. A word that is almost impossible to translate to English (or any other language for that matter..)  but means something along the lines of being homey or a good sport. Ayurveda says they are aggravating their earth element which over time will most definitely result in imbalance. Be it physical in the form of too much weight, high cholesterol or diabetis or emotional in the form of unhealthy attachment to people or things, lethargy or if worse comes to worse even heavy depression. So being mindful of what, where and how they eat is especially important for this type.Kapha qualities are smooth, cool, moist, sticky, stable and heavy. So foodwise they fair best when eating light, drying, heating foods that give their systems a kick up the butt. In Ayurveda we use the pungent, bitter and astringent tastes to get the job done. The pungent or hot taste is of course evident in many spices such as ginger and chillies but can also be found in the allium family (think garlic, onion or leek), some root vegetables like (horse)radish and in all types of cress (like watercress). Bitter is a much underrated taste in the west but is highly regarded in both Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine. It is said to be the most  medicinal of all tastes boosting digestion and cleansing the blood when used in moderation. In food you find it in small amounts in almost all leafy greens from rucola to spinach, in cauliflower and broccoli and in most spices. And vegetables like belgian endive, brussels sprouts, radiccio and, the much feared but oh so delicious if you just know what to do with it, bitter melon have a more pronounced bitter taste. Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, has made sure that almost all of these veggies are  in season right now as we slowly move from Vata into Kapha season. So I got to shoot some pretty pictures of them during my weekly visit to the  local organic market. Astringent is more of a mouth feel than it is a taste leaving your mouth (and body) feeling dry after having it. Think of the almost squiky dryness on your teeth after eating very fresh spinach or chickpeas. Cranberries and pomegranate   tend to have the same effect as well. Oddly enough despite it’s sweet taste honey is also considered astringent and as an extra bonus is said to scrape toxins from the body making it the best natural sweetener for Kapha to use in moderation.


In Dutch the equivalent of the English saying  “dry to the bone” is  “as dry as barley “. Which is exactly why it is the perfect grain for Kapha. Having much excess water in their bodies they don’t need to add too much moisture to their systems. As suitable Kapha grains rye and millet are close seconds followed by corn and quinoa. But in general it’s a good idea for Kapha’s to curtail their wheat, oat and (white) rice intake as they are stickier in nature.

Many Kapha’s will complain that the diet that balances them best is dull and boring. But fear not my Kapha friends because as a thank you to all you loyal, caring, sweet darlings of people that literraly are the back bone of this society (and whom I happen to adore with a passion, being one of you and all…) I’ve designed some delicious recipes that will make the Vata’s and Pitta’s around you green with envy. Starting with this oh so photogenic pearl barley salad. Perfect for enjoying  after a brisk walk at a park picnic on one of those rare sunny Indian Summer afternoons we are occasionally blessed with. Serve with a side of  beet root cubes that have been marinated in a honey& chilli vinaigrette for a nice sweet and spicy touch. And, in the highly unlikely but very desirable case that you’ve had a very very long walk, add a super thin slice of  nettle cheese on a slice of sourdough baguette as a tiny reward.

So it is with great joy I say: Vata’s stay clear of this dish. Pitta’s you can have it on occasion but only if you’ve been extra nice to your Kapha friends. But please Kapha’s eat to your heart’s content!

Pearl barley, fennel and cranberry salad

Enough for 2

  • 100 grams pearl barley (well rinsed)
  • 250 ml water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium sized fennel bulb (cleaned)
  • 1 fresh sweet corn (kernels removed)
  • 1 small carton of any baby cress of your liking. I used purple basil cress
  • 50 grams dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons toasted (in a dry frying pan) pumpkin seeds
  • drizzle of olive oil

Put on the pearl barley with the water and salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook for about 30 tot 40 minutes until all the water has evaporated and the kernel is still firm but cooked through. Add the sweet corn kernels the last 10 minutes of the cooking time on top of the pearl barley to steam them. Take off the heat and fluff up with a fork. Put in a bowl to cool.

While the pearl barley is cooking slice the fennel very thinly on a hand mandolin or with a very sharp knife. Mix the fennel in the cooked and cooled pearl barley and sweet corn mixture and cut the cress with a kitchen knife over the salad. Add the dried cranberries and half the toasted pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with some olive oil, season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Garnish with the rest of the pumpkin seeds.

Honey & chilli marinated red beets

  • 2 medium sized beet roots
  • zest of  a 1/4 lemon
  • juice of a 1/4  lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon good quality balsamico vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon runny honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 finely diced red onion
  • 1/2 finely chopped green chilli (seeds removed)
  • handful of rucola

Cook the beetroots (leave the skins on) in plenty of soft boiling water for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours until you can pierce them all the way through with a sharp knife. Check if you need to add more hot water half way the cooking process. The beets should stay immersed under water all through the cooking time.

Meanwhile mix the lemon zest, juice, balsamico, honey, olive oil, red onion and chilli to a smooth dressing. If the marinade is too thick add some more lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Drain the beets and let cool until cool enough to handle. Remove the skin and chop in medium sized or small dice. Mix in the dressing while the beets are still hot. Let marinate for at least an hour before you serve on a bed of rucola.


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