JUNO-inspired stuffed peppers

Celebrating Canadian music with ingredients tied to song lyrics!

It’s JUNO Awards Week in Ottawa and I’m pretty excited by all the musical hoopla. In 2012, the last time the JUNOs were held here, my son played piano for a pre-JUNO performance featuring former Governor General Michaelle Jean and local folk hero Craig Cardiff so it’s no understatement to say that in our house, the JUNOs are a big deal. While many of Canada’s talented musicians will be front and centre on Sunday, April 2 when the awards are handed out, there are tons of other JUNO-themed activities happening all over town this week. Little did I know I’d be taking part in one of them when I unexpectedly received an email a few days ago from Alan Neal, host of CBC Radio’s All in a Day program, inviting me to be part of a fun food challenge. Without knowing anything about what I was signing up for, I agreed to participate. It was only after I’d said yes that I learned that I’d been tasked with creating a dish for the show’s Wednesday D is for Dinner segment using ingredients (selected by me) which have to tie into the five songs nominated for the 2017 JUNO Award for Single of the Year.

The nominated songs are:

“Treat You Better” by Shawn Mendes
“One Dance” by Drake (ft Wizkid and Kyla)
“Wild Things” by Alessia Cara
“Starboy” by The Weeknd (ft Daft Punk)
“Spirits” by The Strumbellas

If you know any of the song lyrics for the JUNO 2017 Single of the Year nominees, you’ll appreciate how daunting the challenge actually was. Nary a mention of cheese, chocolate, cherries or chives among them; in fact there’s very few references to food or drink in any of the five songs. As a result, I had to play a few word association games in my head to forge connections between the songs and a dish that I hoped people would find appealing (not to mention, which would also best my unknown competitors). I’m pleased to share with you my creation: it’s peppers stuffed with Chinese pearl barley; it also includes king eryngii mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, wine, thyme, ground walnuts, caviar, parmesan and Ungava gin. Following the recipe, you’ll find the references connecting these ingredients to the associated song lyrics.

You can listen to the fun radio segment here.


  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) canola oil
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 king eryngii (or king oyster) mushroom, diced fine (or regular button mushrooms)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) sun-dried tomatoes, chopped fine
  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) Chinese pearl barley (or regular pearl barley), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) white wine
  • freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) dried thyme leaves
  • 2 cups (500 mL) beef, chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) coarsely ground walnuts
  • 3 – 4 medium-large bell peppers, colours of your choice


  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) caviar (optional but delicious; black sesame seeds would be great too)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) Ungava gin


  • Heat the canola oil in a medium sized, heavy duty saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and mushrooms and sauté for 3 – 4 minutes, until softened. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and sauté for 1 minute more.
  • Add the rinsed barley and stir to coat with the moisture in the pan. Add the white wine and let simmer for 1 minute, then add the salt, pepper, thyme and stock.
  • Cover and bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and cook about 25 – 30 minutes, until barley is just tender and liquid has not completely evaporated. Add a few tablespoons of water if you find the mixture drying out before barley is tender.
  • While barley cooks, cut the tops off the peppers and remove the ribs and seeds inside. Preheat oven to 350F.
  • When barley is cooked, stir in walnuts and scoop the mixture into the prepared peppers. Fill them to the top but try not to compact the mixture too much.
  • Place the filled peppers in an ovensafe dish and bake for 22 – 25 minutes, until peppers are just tender.
  • Remove from heat and garnish each pepper with a drizzle of Ungava gin, a sprinkle of Parmesan and a small amount of caviar, if using.
  • Serve hot.

Makes sufficient stuffing for 3 – 4 peppers (depending upon their size).

It was so much fun talking about this dish in studio with Alan Neal and to see what the dynamic duo of Caroline Ngo and Kevin Benes from Hintonburg’s Carben Restaurant came up with as their dish.

Here’s a quick pic of Alan Neal enjoying sampling my stuffed peppers. I can’t wait to feed him again as he’s such an open-minded and enthusiastic taste tester!


Here is the list of the ingredients and the song/lyric with which they are associated:

  • Bell peppers (Starboy: ‘shade’ because peppers are in the nightshade family)
  • Chinese pearl barley aka Tears of Job (Treat You Better: ‘crying’)
  • Finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes (Spirits: ‘sun’; also Wild Things: ‘fine’)
  • White wine (One Dance: ‘wine’)
  • Thyme (One Dance: ‘time’)
  • Ground walnuts (One Dance: ‘grinding’)
  • King eryngii mushrooms (Starboy: ‘king’)
  • Caviar (Starboy: ‘ebony’; also Treat You Better: ‘girl’, because it comes from female fish)
  • Grated Parmesan (Starboy: ‘ivory’)
  • Ungava gin (Spirits: gin is a spirit; also Wild Things – Ungava is made from wild Canadian botanicals)

Stuffed Peppers with Barley

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

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