Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the soup is so delightful
And since we've got no place to go
OK, so I may have messed around with the lyrics, but the sentiment is totally authentic. When the weather outside is grey and miserable there's nothing to beat the comfort factor of a nice bowl of home-made soup. And, for me, coming from Ireland, any kind of homemade soup has to be thickened with barley grains to give it substance. That's how my mum and my grandma used to make soup when I was a little girl, and that's how I like it.
These days I add a mixture of barley, split peas and lentils. Sometimes I buy a packet of mixed grains that have been put together specifically for adding to soups or stews, and I love the variety of the textures and flavours that they add.
This recipe maximises the flavour of the winter vegetables by roasting them slowly in the oven. The cumin and turmeric add extra warmth and depth of flavour.
Anyway if you'd like to try your hand at a spot of soup-making here's what you'll need for 6 servings.
150 g (5 1/4 oz) barley soup grain mix
2 litres (3 1/2 pints) of good vegetable stock
1 medium sized butternut squash
2 large parsnips
4 medium sized carrots
2 medium sized brown onions
3 tablespoonfuls of chopped freshly cut sage leaves
2 heaped teaspoonfuls of ground cumin
1 level teaspoonful of turmeric
bacon lardons for serving: I fry 100 g (3 1/2 oz) per person and drain them on some kitchen paper to remove excess oil before sprinkling them into the soup
grated cheese (Cheddar or Emmental work well) for serving
1. Peel all the vegetables and chop them into chunks. Place on a roasting tray and toss with some olive oil and the chopped sage leaves. Season with salt and black pepper, and cook in a pre-heated oven at 200º C (390º F or Gas Mark 6) for 45 minutes. Turn them over once during this period so that they cook evenly.
2. Whilst the vegetables are roasting, cook the barley mix in the vegetable stock until the grains are cooked through.
3. When the vegetables have cooked blitz them in the food processor and add to the vegetable stock/ mixed grains. Be sure and add all those wonderful rich juices that will coat the bottom of the roasting pan to the soup mix as they'll be full of added flavour. Stir well, add the spices and heat through until it reaches your ideal temperature for serving.
4. Fry the bacon lardons and coarsely grate some cheese. Serve the soup with the bacon lardons and grated cheese on top.
Delicious! It's pretty substantial so you'll need very little extra to fill your people up at supper time.
Enjoy with a nice glass of Rioja and good company!
All the best for now,