Rachel Roddy’s Barley, Lentil, and Vegetable Soup Recipe | Food

LLike many of their generation, my grandparents dealt with the chaos of life with cans. Biscuits, buttons, screws, tea, picture hooks, old keys, shoe polish, used stamps, biscuits, cakes, shortbread biscuits, plasters, crayons: they all had one. Even tin cans—liquorice, mints, balms—had a tin that looked at times as old as my grandparents themselves and was difficult to open. Others celebrated events or commemorated places visited. By far the best cans, however, were the candy ones. One lived in the kitchen, the other in the glove compartment of Grandpa’s immaculate car.

I can picture my grandmother opening the cute tin can, which was blue with a raised white pattern and shaped like a mailbox; She would pull the lid off and then lower it to grandson’s level. I remember the chill smell of Fox’s Glacier Mints (grandma’s favorite, always dominant) and how we rummaged past their blue and white wrappers in search of a humbug or barley sugar. The dimensions of a candy are perfect, as is a twist-off shell and the thick sweetness of barley sugar, the most digestible of all candies.

I kept this thought until recently when I discovered that barley candy contains no barley. They did when they were first made in the 16th century by a French matron who mixed barley water with sugar when she was (apparently) looking for a cure. I wonder when the recipe changed. Florence White uses lemon and almond oils in her 1932 book Good Things In England. Similarly, I’m wrong about the Italian drink Orzatajust is the Italian word for barley – which has been processed into a cloudy syrup that refreshed generations of overheated people children, but is now made with almonds. Faced with the worrying news that I can no longer rely on getting my daily barley from candy and syrup, I started looking at alternatives.

Barley, along with lentils, peas, bitter vetch, chickpeas, emmer wheat, and einkorn, is one of the eight Neolithic founding crops domesticated in the Fertile Crescent more than 12,000 years ago. As with all grains, its consumption is often observed in four stages: raw; roasted and soaked or boiled; ground; and mixed with flour to form a dough. The cooking is where I am today, with another ole, lentils: together they make a fantastically strong, yet smooth soup, which we recently ate at a great spot not far from Rome’s Porta Pia called Fiaschetteria Marini. They need nice pearl barley here.

It’s wonderful how barley transforms as it cooks, from hard pearls to plump knobs, its texture and flavor are a combination of oats and wheat. And it has a milky near-sweetness – no wonder it makes such wonderful candies. Barley is also sizzling and will continue to swell off the stove, so add extra water and salt to get a rustling consistency rather than a stiff one. And while it sadly won’t add to the world chaos, storing that leftover pearl barley in a can might help keep the closet organized.

Barley, lentil and vegetable soup

preparation 10 mins
a cook 40 mins
serves 4

1 onionpeeled and finely diced
1 stick of celeryfinely diced
1 carrotpeeled and finely diced
salt and black pepper
5 tbsp olive oil
1 small potatopeeled and finely diced
2 bay leaves
g pearl barley
G small brown lentils

In a heavy-bottomed stockpot, gently sauté the onion, carrot, celery, and a pinch of salt in the olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the potatoes and bay leaves and cook for a few more minutes.

Now, when their cooking time is the same (about 30 minutes), add the lentils and barley along with a liter and a half of water. If they have different cooking times, add one and the water and add the other a little later. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for half an hour or until lentils and barley are tender. You’ll probably need to add another 500ml of water – keep that in mind.

Remove half of the soup, puree until creamy, then return to the pan and season with salt and black pepper. Serve with a little olive oil and red chili flakes or croutons, if you like.

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