Flexible Bean and Barley Soup

bowl of bean and barley soup with carrots and celery

bowl of bean and barley soup with carrots and celery

Weeknights have become busy around here, between new year’s resolutions, birthdays, and the usual. This is the time of year when I know I need food to function but I can’t always bring myself to whip up something new each night. The lack of fresh produce in the house doesn’t help either.

It would be really easy to succumb to take out and pre-made frozen foods, but I know my stomach, wallet, and conscience wouldn’t be happy with me if I did.  To combat winter food fatigue, I’ve been making larger batches of things to take for lunch with me throughout the week. I’ve stocked the freezer so that when I’m at wits end I don’t end up ordering pizza (at least not again anyway).

This week, the savior dish was a bean and barley soup I’ve been playing with all winter. Basically, I choose two types of dried beans, throw in a cup of barley, onions, carrots, celery, a bay leaf and bouillon and we eat like kings for a week. This kind of soup is filling, incredibly healthy, cheap, and can last for days and days. I bet you could even feed it to an avid meat-eater and they wouldn’t even realize it is vegan.

Here’s my latest recipe, but this soup is flexible enough that you could substitute just about any ingredient for another similar one (except the barley which is needed for its magical thickening powers).

Recipe: Pink and white bean barley soup

Makes 6-8 large servings

  • 1 lb dried pink beans
  • 1 lb dried small white beans
  • 1 cup barley
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup carrot, chopped
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbs bouillon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Soak the beans using your favorite method. Since I usually don’t have the foresight to soak beans overnight before I want to use them, I soak the beans in 6 cups of boiling water per pound of beans, for roughly one hour in a covered pot. I add smaller beans 15-30 minutes into the soaking so they don’t oversoak and disintegrate later in the process. After the hour is up, I pour out the water, rinse the beans and return to the pot.
  2. Add all of the rest of the ingredients and cover with 4 quarts of water. You can also substitute some of the water for your favorite stock or broth.
  3. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and allow to simmer for an hour, covered.
  4. Taste some of the soup to see if the beans and barley are cooked. Beans should be tender but not disintegrating. Barley should be puffed and soft with little to no firmness at the center. Allow to cook uncovered until the beans are finished. The soup will thicken. Taste test for seasoning and add more if necessary.
  5. Enjoy piping hot, or lukewarm. The soup will continue to thicken as it cools due to evaporation and the starches released from the barley and beans.

One year ago: Beef and Lamb Chili

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