Soup Mix is a packet mix of barley, dried peas and various lentils that is easily available in supermarkets. It it not something I would normally buy, but my Father had a couple of bags in his pantry and I inherited them.
During a particularly cold snap, they were used to make a hearty and creamy vegetable soup. It is a soup that is warming and delicious. It also freezes very well.
The soup’s secrets are – the inclusion of fennel with leeks, onions and celery. Fennel is rarely included in soups yet it goes so well with lentils and beans. We have an extraordinary Dried Fava Soup that uses fennel in its base. The second secret is that half of the lentil-barley mix is cooked separately and blended to a puree before including in the soup. This gives the soup a beautiful creamy texture.
Lentil, Barley and Vegetable Soup
200 g “soup mix” – a mix of barley, lentils and dried peas; if you don’t have this available, make up your own mix
1.5 Tblspn olive oil
0.5 head celery, with leaves, chopped – keep the chopped stalks and leaves separate
1 red onion, peeled and chopped
0.5 fennel bulb, chopped – green leaves also chopped and kept separate
1.5 leeks, chopped
1 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 small red chillies, chopped
1 Tblspn each fresh parsley and mint
2 fresh ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
1 litres vegetable stock + more as needed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
0.5 tspn angustora bitters or 1 – 2 tspn red wine vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
Soak the soup mix in hot water for at least 45 minutes – while chopping and sauteeing the vegetables will be enough time. It can be soaked overnight. Drain the lentils and set aside.
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 soup mix, stir well and allow to absorb the flavours, and then add half the stock. Reduce the heat and cook until the soup mix is tender – about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the remaining soup mix in the rest of the stock for 30 – 40 minutes. Puree this in a food processor or blender and add the purée to the soup.
Season. To enliven the soup add the bitters or vinegar, and serve with a drizzle of 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.