Thursday 22 January 2009

Country Vegetable & Pearl Barley Soup

I had a rustic spelt and vegetable soup when out for lunch recently and loved it so much that I knew I had to try and recreate it. It contained the grain spelt, which I had never eaten in grain form before, only ground as flour in bread, but it had a lovely nutty flavour. I searched the supermarket shelves eagerly, looking for the elusive grain but to no avail. The closet match I could see was pearl barley which looked remarkably similar, and I decided that would have to do. I wanted to keep the rustic appearance of the soup and so diced all the veg to a similar size and then cooked it in vegetable stock with some thyme and chili for extra flavour.

I was curious to see how the pearl barley would turn out, as I admit to never having tasted it before, I’m not sure why. I think its just one of those grains that’s seen as being a bit old fashioned and dare I say it ‘poor’ and as a result it often get bypassed on the shelves in favour of the more fashionable grains such as Arborio rice. However, I tell you all, if you too have been skimming over this humble grain, you’ve been missing out. It had the same nutty flavour as spelt and had a wonderful texture, plump grains with slightly fluffy edges. There was a little bounce to each pearl that sort of popped when you bit into it (sounds odd but you’ll understand what I mean if you try it). Along with all the different veg and the flavoursome stock it really made for a warming and enjoyable lunch. Pearl barley you’re my find of the month – I’ll be using you again soon!

Country Vegetable & Pearl Barley Soup
2 onions
1 courgette
2 medium potatoes
1 leek
3 carrots
½ tin Sweetcorn
100g pearl barley
1 green chili
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 litre vegetable stock
1 tsp dried thyme

Peel and chop the onions, carrots and potatoes into a 2cm dice. Dice the courgette and wash and slice the leek into rounds.
Cut the chili in half, remove the seeds and finely chop.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan and then fry the onion until soft.
Add the rest of the diced veg (expect the Sweetcorn), thyme, chili and vegetable stock.
Stir in the pearl barley, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover with the lid and allow to cook for 45 minutes to 1hour until the veg is tender and the pearl barley plump.
Stir through the Sweetcorn for the final 15 minutes before serving in warmed bowls with crusty bread for dipping.
Serves 6 – 8


Beth (jamandcream) said...

I made a pearl barley risotto recently and will def be using again. Soup looks lovely and hearty

Abitofafoodie said...

This looks like such a nourishing and delicious soup - I'd love a bowl right now. My aunt makes a really good soup with beef and pearl barley. Must get the recipe from her and give it a try - I've not cooked with pearl barley before either.

Nic said...

I used to have something similar when I was a child. It looks really good Katie.

Snooky doodle said...

I like barley, its texture is unique. I make a soup like this frequently usually i add some wholegrain rice and lentils too. it so comforting. :)

Gigi said...

I have only had barley a couple of times (in soup form with meat). I am intrigued by your veggie version especially today since it's cold rainy. I'd love a hot bowl of soup right now. :P

Elle said...

I have a similar soup I make with rolled barley...sort of like rolled oats only barley. They cook faster than pearl barley and make such a nice soup. Yours looks glorious.

The Caked Crusader said...

I love pearl barley in soup - it turns soup from a starter into a main course.
Yours looks fresh and delicious and sooooo wholesome!

Sam said...

I'm pretty sure Sainsbury's sell spelt in the specialist section. it's expensive though and pearl barley is so good it would probably not be worth it.

This soup looks very wholesome and tasty, It might be old fashioned but I love pearl barley!

eileen said...

I just made this soup (with a couple of minor variations based on what vegetables I had) and it was absolutely delicious. Perfect for the horrible weather we're having and the nasty cold I have at the moment. Also very glad to have discovered another great food blog (one of my favourite things) as a result of looking for a good recipe for vegetable and pearl barley soup! Thank you.