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Lunch with Stanley Tucci: Californian barley bowl

California Bowl 26

A few months back, I was lucky enough to have lunch with the frankly amazing Stanley Tucci. You will know him as an incredible actor and director but as I learnt over lunch and some very early and very delicious wine (it was 11.30am) he is the most passionate cook and all out food lover. Family and food run through his blood, so inevitably that's what we ended up talking about. I tried to play it all cool having a Hollywood big hitter for lunch, not sure I quite managed it. I'll let you be the judges. The lunch we prepared and ate together sits at the crossroads of fresh and hearty. It’s the kind of food I remember eating when I was growing up in San Francisco. Light, bright and goodness-packed. This dish is a teaming up of all the things that remind me of California: unusual grains, bright citrus, avocado, nuts and seeds, and sprouted seeds and beans.

You can use any grain here – I like pearl barley for its chewy, pillowy heartiness, but quinoa, millet or even brown rice would work a treat. If you are vegan, leave out the feta and use coconut yoghurt. I have used basil, as I usually have a plant sitting on the windowsill, but any soft herb would be good. This barley salad bowl is just as good the next day and travels particularly well, so I often make it for plane journeys or make extra for lunch the next day.

30 mins
California Bowl 26


  • 200g pearl barley
  • the zest and juice of 11⁄2 unwaxed lemons
  • 50g almonds
  • 50g sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • a large bunch of fresh basil
  • 200ml plain yoghurt or coconut yoghurt
  • 150g sprouted seeds or pulses (I use mung beans) (optional)
  • 100g feta cheese or vegan feta cheese
  • 200g spinach or greens
  1. Before you start

    Fill and boil a kettle and get all your ingredients together. Heat a griddle pan on a high heat.

  2. To make the pearl barley

    First, get the pearl barley cooking. Rinse it well under cold water, then put it into a pan with twice the amount of water, a good pinch of salt, squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, then put the squeezed lemon half into the pan. Cook for about 25 minutes.

  3. Heat a frying pan on a medium heat. Roughly chop the almonds and toast them in the pan with the seeds until just turning golden brown.

  4. Cut the avocados in half, discard the stones, then put them cut-side down on the griddle pan and cook until they have nice griddle marks.

  5. To make the sauce

    Make a quick yoghurt sauce: shred the basil leaves and mix with the yoghurt, zest and juice of the remaining lemon and a good pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl.

  6. Once the barley is cooked, drain any remaining water, then tumble it into a large dish, crumble over the feta cheese and the toasted almonds and seeds. Shred the spinach or greens, add to the dish and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, remembering that the feta is quite salty.

  7. To serve

    Serve the barley topped with half a warm avocado ready to spoon out, big helpings of yoghurt sauce and more basil, if needed.

Additional information


In an airtight container for up to 3 days in fridge.

As featured in

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