Cook barley, garlic, coriander seeds, bay leaf and lemon peel in a saucepan of boiling salted water over medium-high heat until barley is tender (20-25 minutes). Drain, spread on a tray and refrigerate until cooled to room temperature (10-15 minutes).
Meanwhile, for nettle sauce, blanch nettles until wilted (20-30 seconds), refresh under cold running water, drain well and coarsely chop. Blend in a blender until smooth, adding milk to form a thick purée, then add nutmeg, season to taste and set aside.
Poach eggs in a large saucepan of simmering water over medium heat until soft-poached (2-3 minutes), remove with a slotted spoon and pat dry on absorbent paper. Serve hot with barley and nettle purée, scattered with cress and drizzled with oil.
Note Stinging nettles are harvested from the wild and are available from select Italian grocers and greengrocers. When preparing nettles, wear rubber gloves, because contact will result in itchiness for up to a day. Wash them well under cold running water. If nettles are unavailable, substitute a bitter green, such as kale.
This recipe is from the February 2011 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.