It’s clearly the beginning of the soup season. The days are cooler, and the evenings are outright cold. Yesterday it rained and rained and rained all day. Today it’s still cold, but it’s gloriously sunny and I’ve already got two loads of laundry merrily blowing on the whirligig line.
It’s not just nature that is going through a period of change. My life is also changing. Quite dramatically really.
A couple of weeks ago I moved house. I had been living in two places: a lovely wee colonies flat in Leith, in Edinburgh, through the week and in the Clyde Valley with my boyfriend, the Captain, at weekends. Each Friday after work I would travel west to the Valley and the each Monday morning I would travel back east to the Capital. At one level I had the best of both worlds: the city life (and all the benefits of living in a truly wonderful capital city) through the week and then the joy of having a relatively big garden and being surrounded by fields at the weekend.
But in all honesty it was no longer my dream. My dream was to live in one place, and to know that I would have the right accessories to go with whatever clothes I put on in the morning. All too often that perfect necklace was in the other house.
So just after this year’s festival was over I packed all my worldly belongings into boxes and moved out west. And here I am. Sitting in the garden room, looking out onto the garden and across the Clyde Valley. The clouds are just beginning to blow in, and the trees are starting to lose their lush green. Autumn is definitely in the air. So it’s most definitely the season for warming soups.
After yesterday’s smooth carrot soup, I wanted something chunkier today. And I had a hankering for pearl barley. This the perfect soup for using up whatever veg need to be used. Today it was turnip, carrot, potato and leeks. Oh and savoy cabbage, which didn’t really NEED to be used, but I wanted it.
Anyways, here goes, another simple recipe to see you through the Autumn and Winter.
- A splash of oil, or a smudge of butter
- A couple of leeks, washed of dirt, then sliced finely
- A carrot, peeled and cut into small chunks
- A medium potato, peeled and cut into the same size(ish) chunks
- Turnip, peeled and cut into the same size chunks – I used a piece about the same size as the potato, maybe slightly larger
- A handful of pearl barley
- 1 1/2 stock cubes (veg, lamb or beef work well)
- A few big outside leaves of savoy cabbage, the central spine removed and sliced finely
- Put the oil/butter in the bottom of a large heavy based pan over a medium/low heat
- Put a kettle of water on to boil at this stage
- Add the leeks, the carrot, the potato, the turnip. Just add them as you chop them up, they don’t all need to go in at once
- Sweat the veg for a few minutes, stirring to stop them from sticking/burning
- Add the pearl barley and stir
- Add a good few grinds of black pepper and the stock cubes and a wee bit of water, just to wet the pan, and cook for a further minute or two
- Add the kettleful of water, stir, and bring back to the boil
- Simmer for about an hour, till the whole thing is looking thick and gloopy and the barley is soft
- Add the savoy cabbage and cook for a further 5 minutes or so
- Serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley. It doesn’t need croutons, but I couldn’t resist them.
If you have any bay leaves throw one or two in while it’s simmering, and if you have celery in the fridge, then cut some up and add it all in with the other veg. Somehow, I never seem to have any celery around though.
- Whatever’s left of an old loaf of bread
- Olive oil
- Celery salt
- Black pepper
- Herbs and Spices (I have a harissa style spice mix, with chilli, garlic, coriander and who knows what else)
- Cut the bread into thick slices. Then cut each slice into long batons. Then cut each baton into chunks. They don’t need to be precisely the same size, but it’s best if they are similar sized chunks
- In a big bowl, pour some oil around the sides of the bowl so it dribbles down into the bottom of the bowl. You don’t need a lot, but enough that the inside of the bowl is coated in a thin film of oil
- Now sprinkle in your chosen flavours – I grind lots of black pepper, then a sprinkle or two of celery salt, followed by a good skoosh or the harissa spice mix
- Now through in the bread chunks and gently mix it all around. A
good squidgy spatula is the best implement for this. What you’re trying to do is to give all the bits of bread a chance of absorbing a wee bit of the flavoured oil. The chunks should not all look soaked in oil, although some of them might. But really, you’re trying to make this with as little oil as you need
- Pour the coated bread into a baking tray and pop in a very low oven
- I leave it for about 45 mins in an oven at gas mark 2. But this is not a precise recipe – check on the croutons and take them out when they are ready – they will have taken on a slightly golden colour and will be slightly crispy (they crisp up a bit more as they cool down).
- Sprinkle in your bowl of soup, or serve them in a pretty bowl so people can help themselves. If you have any left keep them in an airtight tub for a few days.
Please don’t use good fresh bread for these – the bread will be much nicer just served in chunks with the soup. But if you have the heel of a loaf left, just take 5 minutes to make these and then you’ll have them ready for next time you have soup (which surely won’t be long away).