Vegetable And Barley Soup



Ingredients

300 g pearl barley
100 ml olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 leek, white part only, sliced in half, washed and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 pale inner celery sticks, chopped
1 fennel bulb, cut into
1-cm dice
2 carrots, scrubbed and cut into 1-cm dice
1 cup celery leaves, also from the centre, shredded
1 teaspoon dried basil
2½ liters vegetable stock or water
1 bay leaf
2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and cut into
1-cm dice
800 g can diced tomatoes salt
100 g spinach leaves, shredded

Method:

1. soak the pearl barley in hot water for 45 minutes, drain and rinse.

2. heat the oil in a large pot, fry the onion, leek and garlic without colouring for 5 minutes over medium heat.

3. add the celery, fennel and carrot and cook for a further 5 minutes. Then add the celery leaves and basil, cook for 1 minute.

4. add the stock or water and bring to the boil. Add the barley and bay leaf, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. add the potatoes and tomatoes, simmer for 1520 minutes, making sure the potatoes are soft and the barley is cooked. add more stock or water if necessary. Just before serving, season with salt and stir in the spinach.


HINTS AND TIPS:


* You will needcutting board, cook’s knife, paring knife, vegetable peeler, bowls and cup, liquid, weight and spoon measures.

* For vegetable soupomit the barley and add extra vegetables. To the basic recipe, add 2 large potatoes (peeled and diced chunky), 300 g pumpkin (peeled and diced chunky), 2 zucchini (diced), 150 g cabbage (diced), 100 g green beans (tailed and sliced into 2-cm lengths), 75 g spinach leaves (chopped). Add the potato and pumpkin when the stock is added. Add the zucchini, cabbage and green beans with 5 minutes remaining. Stir in the spinach just before serving.

* There is not too much difference between this soup and a minestrone. If anything I would tend to simplify the vegetables in this soup, keeping to mostly root vegetables and perhaps a bit of chopped parsley at the end.

* This great winter warmer will freeze well but is best  made and consumed on the day.

* Grate some parmesan or pecorino cheese and sprinkle over the top when serving.

* Pearl barley is more refined (polished) than hulled barley. It is less chewy and cooks faster than hulled barley, but because it has been polished further, it is less nutritious, which could be said for all grains that become more and more refined.

* I prefer to keep my grains in the refrigerator unless I know I’m going to use them within a month. Although the shelf life of barley and other grains is long12 months in an airtight container, in a cool, dry areathe fact is that it takes one larvae and it’s finished. Also, weather permitting, the constant change can have an effect and the natural oils will become rancid sooner than you expect.

* Pearl barley doesn’t really need soaking; I do it so it really breaks open in the soup. Hulled barley needs to be soaked for several hours before cooking and needs at least an hour to cook through.

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