Lens et hordeo
A dish of lentils and barley - contributed by Gaylin J. Walli

Original recipe from De honesta voluptate:

On the Lentil. There are two kinds: one is round and rather dark, while the other, from its shape tending toward the name of dwarf lentil, is considered of cold and dry nature. The outside relaxes the belly; the inside constricts. It is digested wit difficult, generates black bile and creates scaly skin disease, causes flatulence and a stuffed feeling, harms the brain and chest, dulls the eyes, and represses passion. Its harm can be corrected this way: throw away the first cooking water, and add vinegar and spices to the second. It will even be healthful to mix soft barley meal in the pot so that it may give more and better nourishment. (Milham, 313)

Modern recipe: Barley & Lentils

The Barley

For 160:

  • 5/8 quart olive oil 
  • 1 2/3 quarts onion, chopped 
  • 13 1/3 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 3 1/3 quarts barley, pearled 
  • 1 2/3 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/8 gallons vegetable stock 
  • 1 1/8 tablespoon salt
For 8:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced 
  • 1 cup barley, pearled 
  • 1 dash freshly ground pepper
  • 5/8 quart vegetable stock 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Add the oil to a deep, oven-proof pan heated to high and fry the onions and garlic until very lightly browned. Add barley and pepper and stir until coated. Add stock and salt and bring to a boil. Quickly place in a baking dish and cover. Bake until barley is tender and stock is absorbed, about 45 minutes. Let stand covered for at least 10 minutes.

The Lentils

For 160:

  • 6 2/3 pounds lentils 
  • 3 1/3 gallons water 
  • 6 2/3 onions, peeled and halved 
  • 6 2/3 whole garlic cloves, peeled 
  • 6 2/3 whole bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste 
For 8:
  • 1/2 pound lentils
  • 1 quart water
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and halved 
  • 1/2 whole garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2 whole bay leaf 
  • salt and pepper to taste 
While barley is baking, wash and pick over lentils. Combine lentils with 8 cups water, whole onion, garlic clove and bay leaf in a large pan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer, uncovered, until lentils are tender, 20-30 minutes. Drain and let cool. Remove the onion, garlic, and bay leaf.

Putting it all together:

Combine barley and lentils, mixing well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or room temperature.

Per serving nutritional information:

190 Calories; 5g Fat (21% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 1mg Cholesterol; 442mg Sodium

Notes on the recipe:

Lentils cooked during Platina's time were very likely boiled similarly today's practices. In his manuscript, Platina mentions throwing away the initial cooking water and adding vinegar and spices to the second cooking water. It may be that the lentils were actually cooked twice, but some scholars believe the first cooking mimics the initial soaking that modern cookbooks recommend. Platina recommends adding barley meal to the lentils to improve their nutritional value, a common practice for broths throughout his cookbook.

About the dish:

This dish is a constructed one. Rather than adding barley meal to the cooking water, we have chosen to add actual pearled barley to the dish because, as Platina states, "Barley is the noblest of grains." We cooked the meal using the method detailed above for three reasons: we had a plethora of ovens available at the original feast site, baked barley results in a nicely dry and fluffy product without burning, and barley cooked on the stovetop often burns despite careful tending. We also chose to cook the barley with broth to increase the flavor of this dish.

Advance cooking:

Lentils can easily be cooked up to 6 months in advance of the feast and frozen. Although we have successfully cooked barley many months in advance of feasts, we do not usually recommend the practice as we believe the texture of the barley suffers slightly from the freezing (we prefer our barley chewier than most people). We suggest precooking the barley no more than one week in advance for the best texture.

Alternative cooking methods:

You can speed the cooking of both lentils and barley by using a pressure cooker. Follow the directions from your cooker's manufacturer for best results. Lentils can also be cooked in a crock pot, though they usually need a bit less water than what would normally be used for the stovetop method. Again, consult instructions that came with your appliance.

Additional notes on this recipe may be found at: The Coronation Feast of Dag IV & Elayna II


Milham, Mary Ella. Platina's On Right Pleasure and Good Health. University of North Carolina at Asheville: Pegasus Press, 1999. ISBN: 0866982086.

Metric, Celsius, & Gas Mark Equivalencies

Gaylin Walli is a technical writer and editor for a multinational software company. She spends the vast majority of her personal time researching things because her friends (and people throughout the known world) torture her with comments like "Do you know anything about..."

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