a delicious and simple recipe for pearl barley and brussel sprout minestrone
… apparently the definition of an Indian Summer is a period of warm weather that comes after the first frost of autumn. We’ve not officially had our first frost here in the UK but this weekend we’re most definitely having something akin to summer. It’s really odd because the trees know it’s autumn and the light is autumn-adjacent but it’s humid and there’s a warm breeze that takes you aback a little when you step outside. To paint a picture, i’m currently sitting at the kitchen table, in shorts and a T-Shirt with the folding doors flung wide open and i’m having to squint at the screen because the sun is so bright. It’s October 14th and it’s lovely… My only complaint would be the abundance of flies that just won’t die already because we haven’t had that first frost… I always laugh when people say how unusual this weather is but then I remember marking my calendar last year when we had a hot October and the year before. of course I also remember less than a decade ago when we had snow by October so who can say what’s normal anymore? What I do think is scary is that early next week we’re due for the tail-end of a hurricane. Nothing anywhere as bad as has devastated the caribbean recently but for the UK anything over a sting wind will rustle the feathers so to be expecting the tail-end of anything is a little worrying – but actually it’s not that which I find scary. The scary part is that this new hurricane blows by on the 30th anniversary of the infamous ‘October Hurricane’ from 1987… the one that, if you were a kid back then, you’d remember because it was all anyone talked about for months. Trees came down, houses came down, people lost lives… but it was 30 YEARS AGO… not 10 years ago which is what I always imagine is the time that elapses since anything from when I was a teenager…
pearl barley and brussel sprout minestrone
October should really be the time for us to be talking about comfort food and my lovely friend Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen recently posted the question on Facebook; ‘What’s Your Favourite Comfort Food?’ My first and most immediate answer was a bowl of warm minestrone served with freshly baked bread. To be honest I have a few favourites. A traditional roast chicken dinner… mac n’ cheese… stew and dumplings but I think a freshly made minestrone can’t beat much else. I think particularly at this cross-vr time of year. The Viking calls minestrone ‘hot salad’ and I totally get that. It’s all the health goodness of fresh vegetables just swimming in a glorious vegetable stock. I think that a good minestrone is at the very least a day old before you eat it, so if you can, try and make this the day, or in the morning before you serve it. There’s something that happens between the whole pot cooking, then cooling down and sitting around for a while that does something incredible to the flavours. It’s unbeatable and worth the wait. I also have a rule about what makes a minestrone a minestrone. It has to have onions, celery and carrots and then it always must have at least one kind of bean, one kind of cabbage and one kind of carb. So today we have great beans and broad beans, brussel sprouts and pearl barley in replace of the traditional macaroni. The stock should always be tomato based and I always add some strong cheese at the end once the soup is hot and about to be served… it’s basically a bowl of joy and if you’ve never made it, then here’s your reason…
… just a quick word on using celery – I once read a post from a blogger bemoaning the ‘bunch of celery’ and recipes that call for ‘2 sticks of celery’ for instance and how much of a waste that is. Well firstly, as I’ve said many many times, celery keeps for months in the fridge and in fact when it yellows and goes a bit floppy is when celery is at its very tastiest. Secondly, I keep my celery in a bunch and chop down, leaves and all, so when my recipes call for 1/3 celery bunch, that means I simply chop off the top third of the celery bunch and then chop it up.
i’m using my current favourite 24cm shallow cast-iron pan with a lid but any large soup pan or casserole dish would work for this soup.
- 1 medium onion – chopped
- 1/3 whole bunch of celery – chopped
- 3 medium carrots – chopped
- 3 garlic gloves – finely chopped
- fresh herbs – I used rosemary, thyme and oregano
- 8 or 9 fine green beans – chopped into thirds
- roughly 12 brussel sprouts – quartered (The Co-Op are selling them in small, 150g bags at the moment)
- 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 100g tin of broad beans
- 100g frozen peas
- 1 lt good quality veg stock
- 50g pearl barley
- 100g strong cheddar cheese – finely grated
melt a large nob of butter and some olive oil in your pan over a medium heat, add the onions, garlic, celery and carrots, stir well and gently saute for roughly 5 minutes. Add the herbs and saute again for another couple of minutes.
add the green beans and brussel sprouts, stir well and saute again for another 3 or 4 minutes, then add the tomatoes, stir again, place the lid on and let all the veg sweat for at least five minutes or until the veg are soft
add the stock and the rest of the veg and pearl barely and let the soup simmer very gently with the lid on for at least an hour, then turn off the heat and let the soup stand for at least 8 hours
once you’re ready to serve, heat the soup to a gentle bubble, take it off the heat, stir in the cheese and let the whole pot sit for 5 mins before serving… it should be hot but not steaming when people eat it.
eat and of course, enjoy!