Mushroom and barley kuba Recipe
Mushroom and barley kuba
Flavours of the Czech Republic
Total time: more than 2 hours

Prep. time: 15 minutes
Soaking time: 2 hours
Cooking time: 30 + 25 minutes

Difficulty: Easy
Chef's Note

Houbový kuba
While fried carp is a fairly modern Czech Christmas tradition, the tradition of grain kuba is an ancient one. Pearl barley, an essential ingredient of kuba, used to be an ordinary part of the Czech diet, but these days rice is more common and barley is eaten only in this traditional kuba at Christmas, if at all. It's a shame because hulled grain is both healthy and delicious. Kuba can be prepared at any time of year, even with fresh mushrooms.

A relative of risotto, houbový (houby meaning mushrooms) is traditional in Czech households, particularly at Christmas and in southern Bohemia. Christmas Eve was traditionally a fast day, when only meatless dishes were eaten. That is why kuba can be served without breaking the rule of fast and abstinence and without conjuring up the little gold pig (read about the Czech legend here).  

(1|) If you prefer to use hulled barley, increase the barley's cooking time by about 20 minutes.

For 4 servings

- 60 g dried mushrooms
- 400 ml / 1 3/5 cup cold water

- 200 g pearl (barley
- 250 ml / 1 cup water or vegetable broth

- 3 Tbsp. lard or butter + 1 Tbsp. for the casserole
- 2 large onions
- 3 to 6 cloves garlic to taste
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. dried marjoram
- salt, ground pepper

The day before

  1. Soak the dried mushrooms in water for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight; drain and squeeze lightly to remove excess water.
  2. Place the pearl barley in a bowl and cover with water. Let soak overnight.

The next day

  1. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid (it will be used to color the barley). 
  2. Drain the barley and rinse in fresh water. Drain or pat dry to remove the excess moisture.
  3. Sauté the pearl barley in half the butter in a Dutch oven or large pot for a few minutes, until pearly.
  4. Add 250 ml of the mushroom soaking liquid.
  5. Once the liquid has been absorbed, add the remaining liquid and 125 ml vegetable stock.
  6. Stir, reduce the heat and let simmer for 40 minutes until the barley is tender. Stir occasionally and add more broth if needed.
  7. Meanwhile, sauté the finely chopped onions in the remaining butter.
  8. Briefly sauté the coarsely chopped mushrooms; add the crushed garlic, salt, cumin, marjoram and freshly ground pepper.
  9. Grease the baking dish with butter or lard and in it combine the barley with the remaining ingredients. Smooth out and bake in a preheat 180° C/350° F oven for about 25 minutes, or until golden. 
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