You can use cracked or whole pearl barley in this recipe. Personally, I prefer the whole grains. Cocoa powder or chocolate (about 1 tbsp or 3 squares respectively) can be used instead of raw cacao powder, but remember that chocolate contains extra ingredients. Vanilla extract or a sprinkling of cinnamon could also be used if you don't like chocolate flavour, or are allergic. Dairy-free milk can be used instead of cow's milk to make the dish vegan.
Tip: Make a larger batch and store cooked barley in the fridge for 2-3 days. Use as needed - it is a great addition to vegetable soups too!