In October, 2001, I shifted back to cold Adelaide from temperate Sydney, and the cold weather was a shock! It had me craving soups. In Sydney I was not so keen on the more traditional English and heavy European food any longer – I had turned towards more Indian, Asian and Spicy food. However, coming back into the cold in Adelaide from warm Sydney made me hunger for hearty food – pasties, puddings and soups. How much heartier can you get than Barley Soup?
This really is a hearty soup, made with caramelised vegetables that come together with the barley (some whole and some pureed) to make a great, Italian soup. Beautifully creamy, it is a delight for cold nights and wet weekends.
If you have been preserving and freezing foods in Autumn for Winter, this is a time to use chillies, garlic and tomatoes from your freezer. It makes it sooo easy.
It can be a tad confusing, as orzo in Italian is barley while in Greek it is rice shaped pasta. For this recipe, we are definitely using barley.
You might also like our Soup recipes here and here. We have a few Barley Recipes which will be published in the coming months. Our Italian recipes are here and here. Check out our easy Winter recipes here and here. And feel free to browse recipes from our Retro Recipes series.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 mins sauteeing plus 40 minutes cooking
Serves: Eight large servings – you might consider making half the quantity, as this makes a lot of soup.
400 g barley, soaked in hot water for 45 minutes – while chopping and sauteeing the vegetables will be enough time
3 Tblspn olive oil
1 head celery, with leaves, roughly chopped – keep the chopped stalks and leaves separate
1 red onion, peeled and chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped – green leaves also chopped and kept separate
3 leeks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 small red chillies, chopped
2 Tblspn each fresh parsley and mint
4 fresh ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
2 litres vegetable stock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan then add the chopped celery and onion, and cook together until they soften.
Add the chopped fennel bulb and leek, and sauté, stirring, until they begin to caramelise – about 15 minutes.
Add the garlic and the chilli, then, after a minute, the herbs, celery leaves and the tomatoes. Stir and slightly reduce.
Add half the barley, allow to absorb the flavours, and then add half the stock. Reduce the heat and cook until the barley is tender – about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the remaining barley in the rest of the stock for 30 – 40 minutes. Puree this barley in a food processor and add the purée to the soup.
Season and serve with the extra virgin olive oil.
This soup should be thick and creamy.
Some diced parsnips or potatoes could be added the soup with the stock. It may need a little more stock in this case.