In honor of Tuesday’s grain of the day- barley (as indicated by Rudolph Steiner), and the biblical Feast of Unleavened Bread, I want to share a wholesome recipe for barley cakes.
My husband and I have been interested in celebrating the feasts instituted in the Old Testament for a while. I’ve mentioned we are sort of spiritually “searching” in previous posts- and our search has brought us to study the Torah with another family. We haven’t officially celebrated a feast yet, but I am beginning to learn a little more about them in preparation. The Feast of Unleavened Bread occurs the day after Passover and lasts one full week. Perhaps this is where we get our “spring cleaning” custom from. During this feast, no leaven may be present “in your quarters”. The cupboards, freezers and everything within the household need to be purged of leaven and leavened products; any last bit of bread disposed of, and leaven (yeast, baking powder, etc) as well. It is common to tear the house apart and clean it from top to bottom- not a breadcrumb can be left! I was a little shocked to hear this; how devastating to throw out your sourdough starter every year! But the symbolism is quite beautiful. Leaven, in spiritual terms, represents the process of decay and the action of evil desires; it is only possible for bread to be leavened, in fact, because of death, which biblically speaking would not be present without error/sin in the world. Leaven starts the decay process, and as its fermenting action occurs air bubbles form which swell the dough. Likewise, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”- similar to “one bad apple spoils the whole barrel”, I suppose. Unleavened bread also reminds of fleeing from Egypt, when the Hebrews left so quickly that their bread did not have time to rise. This feast celebrates both purity (no leaven, or error/sin), and commemorates salvation from bondage. “Egypt” metaphorically speaks of anything which has enslaved us, be it bad habits or addiction or other vice. How wonderful to celebrate freedom from things which in the past have brought us down.
I thought it was so interesting when I found out that the Bible says the New Year should be determined by the barley harvest. The first day of the first month of the new year would occur when the crescent moon appears after the barley is mature (the seeds are light colored, dry and hard- not dark green, moist and soft). While I am personally trying out biodynamic gardening, I also tend to look around and see what is growing. I find that when the dandelions bloom, it tends to be a good time to plant potatoes and onions. When they are all gone to seed and disappearing, it is generally safe to put my warm-loving plants such as tomatoes and peppers in the ground. It feels holistic and there is a sense of continuity when we acknowledge the progression of the maturing flora.
In honor of the barley harvest and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, we are enjoying some simple barley cakes. I ground the barley flour in my grain mill, so it is coarser than what you may find in the store. You will need to adjust the recipe accordingly; I used about 3 3/4 cups of barley flour, but I bet you could get by on just 3 cups with storebought flour. You will know enough flour has been added when you have a workable dough that yields small balls molded by hand.
This recipe comes from “The Good Book Cookbook: Recipes from Biblical Times”. My dear friend Elisabeth gifted it to me before she moved out of state. Thanks Elisabeth!
1 1/2 cups hot milk (I used organic raw milk and was careful not let it scald)
1/4 tsp of salt
3 Tbsp. raw honey
3 cups whole barley flour
3/4 cup raisins (optional… I did not use)
Oil for frying (I used olive oil… seemed appropriate!)
The recipe instructions were very general, so I kind of experimented and came up with my own way of preparing the cakes. It said to either fry or bake them. I cannot bring myself to fry anything in a deep pool of oil (our oils are all organic and more expensive, so it seems like a huge waste to fry with them!), so I “sauteed” in oil til the cakes were golden. Per the recipe, I also tried baking and I DO NOT recommend that. They came out dry and hard as rocks when baked!
Combine dry ingredients and whisk together. Then add wet ingredients. Stir until you’ve reached a doughy consistency and you can form clementine orange-sized balls with your hands (additional flour may be necessary to achieve this).
After forming the balls, heat your griddle and add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Flatten your cakes (I used a rolling pin)- I made mine about 1/4 to 1/2″ thick, although there was no indications of how thick the dough should be in the recipe. I also used a small bowl to ensure a nice round cake after the first few came out with raggedy edges.
It took about 2 minutes per side to achieve a nice golden cake. The recommended accompaniment was a mixture of soft cheese and butter whipped together and sprinkled with fresh coriander. I did not have those things on hand, so I spread a pat of butter and drizzled some honey on top, and served with cubed mozzarella chunks. My family loved it…I really like the nutty taste of barley, too.
Where can you find error creeping in to your life? What truths have you embraced that have set you free? What does purity look like in the life of a wife, mother, individual? Those are the questions I am asking myself for this week of introspection and celebration.