I wasn’t raised a vegetarian, so the soup that was a staple in my house growing up was my mum’s chicken noodle soup. It’s one of those dishes I will forever associate with afternoons in bed with a cold watching TheBold and the Beautiful. Chicken noodle soup and Tim Tams seemed to be able to fix everything.
Once I became a vegetarian I was at a bit of a loss when it came to what to eat when feeling sick or just when the weather was poos and I wanted a bowl of something warm as I hid under the doona in front of the TV. Of course there are heaps of veggie soup options, but none of them had that homely flavour that comes with food infused with memories.
Barley and Veggie Soup Soup Base (makes about 4 good sized portions)
1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
1 large brown onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 carrots, sliced
3-4 bay leaves
250g of pearled barley
3 cups vegetable stock
Parmesan rinds (optional)
Veggie filling (per person)
75 gms tinned borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
4 cherry tomatoes
2 mushrooms, sliced
¼ zucchini, sliced
English spinach, washed and roughly torn
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil leaves
Heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot on a medium heat. Add the diced onion, the garlic, carrot and 3 or 4 bay leaves. Lightly fry the vegetables for 2-3 minutes, making sure they don’t colour.
Wash the pearled barley, drain well and stir into the pot. Add enough stock to cover everything by 3-4 centimetres, about 2 cups. Raise the temperature and bring to the boil. Then as soon as it boils, turn down to a simmer and add a couple of pinches of salt.
If you have any left over rinds from your parmesan cheese throw them in to the pot as well. Yes it sounds weird but I do hold onto mine specifically for this purpose. They add a delicious rich flavour and slight creaminess to the soup as it cooks.
Leave the soup simmering for about 25 minutes until the barley softens. Add additional stock as required. Basically you want the barley covered at all times with the stock.
Once the barley is cooked turn off the heat and portion out the soup. I will put a portion in a pot for my dinner and individually portion the remainder of the soup into take away containers for freezing. If I have a big bunch of English spinach I will add some of that, raw, to the containers prior to freezing.
To finish the soup, add the remaining stock to your portion in the pot and make it as soupy as you like. Then throw your cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, borlotti beans, zucchini and spinach in with your soup base and heat on a medium flame for about 7-10 minutes until the tomatoes have softened and the veggies cooked through.
Serve in a bowl, seasoned with salt, pepper, chilli flakes, fresh basil leaves and parmesan cheese. Super delicious, healthy, full of protein and nice and warming to get you through that cold or just that cold night!