African-Spiced Black Barley with Okra and Tomatoes

Finger Hot is the commercial name for this asian-type pepper that is actually very similar to fresh cayenne and can be used in any recipe to add heat without changing the flavor. It is a good chile to chop and use in stir fry.

They are thin-walled and measure about 1/2″ wide and 5″ to 8″ long. These chiles also dry very nicely.

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1-1/4 cups black barley
3-1/2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 finger hot chiles, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
pinch of ground cloves
1 cup water
1 pound small okra, stems trimmed


In a medium saucepan, cover the barley with water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the barley has split and is tender but still slightly chewy, about 45 minutes. Drain the barley and transfer to a bowl.

Wipe out the saucepan and heat 1-1/2 Tbsp. of the oil in it. Add the onion and chiles, cooking over moderately low heat, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over moderate heat until their juices thicken, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne and cloves and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the barley and the water, cover and simmer over low heat until the flavors are nicely blended, about 4 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp. of oil until almost smoking. Add the okra and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 6 minutes. Season the okra with salt and stir into the barley. Season the barley with salt and serve hot.

Recipe by Marcia Kiesel, as it appeared in Food & Wine Magazine, November 1998.