Roasted Vegetable Soup with Pearl Barley

After much wringing of the hands over how our RV would fare through winter conditions, we had our first bona fied cold snap of the season this weekend. Now, I’m sure our cold snap had very little on, say, Winnipeg’s, where the city was buried under feet of snow, the temperature dropped to an incomprehensible -20C (although it commonly gets even colder there), and there was likely a lot of this going on. Still, it fell below 0C here in the Okanagan and snowed a few inches, which certainly qualifies as a cold snap in my Winter-phobic Vancouverite mind. We do rain in Vancouver – endless, endless rain – but rarely sub-zero degree weather.

So when it started to snow on Sunday afternoon we battened down the hatches and braced ourselves for Winter omnishambles. Which… never really came, apart from a couple cold spots on the linoleum floor and a few unpleasant drafts seeping in later in the evening – but those were taken care of well enough with a pair of slippers for me, footed sleepwear for Hunter and an extra blanket on the bed. The snow started out a mere flurry that afternoon but when we got up the next morning there were a few inches of the stuff on the ground. Luckily, I had dug my snow boots out of the storage locker a couple weeks back ‘just in case’ – fully in denial at that point that I wouldn’t be able to continue wearing my glorious Birkenstocks (I have a newly-formed affinity for ortho-footwear) all Winter long.

My elderly neighbour, always setting the bar high where yard work is concerned (this is the same woman who, a few weeks back, had raked and bagged all the leaves that fell on her property during an overnight windstorm by 8am the next morning), was out shovelling snow at the crack of dawn, while Mike and I sat and drank coffee and – not expecting snow to come so soon – contemplated going to Canadian Tire to buy a shovel. Earlier in the week this same neighbour told me a harrowing story (for the second time) about her brother-in-law who was forced to stand outside with a hairdryer trained on his septic hose (or ‘poo hose’ as she calls it) at 2am one Winter night in an attempt to thaw it, having neglected to properly insulate the thing. ‘Insulate your poo hose!’ she warned, lest we find ourselves in the same situation. Sound advice!

Well it’s on THAT appetizing note that we arrive at this post’s featured recipe! Naturally, a nice thick soup was sounding pretty good given the wintery conditions, and with Mike home for the long weekend I whipped up something that would appeal to his omnivorous manly-man palate. The recipe uses four different roasted vegetables, which give the soup a nice rich flavour, and although the soup is pureed, each maintains its individual character: potatoes give it a comforting creaminess, shallots and parsnip a subtle sweetness, and celery adds extra body to the flavour of the soup. Pearl barley – which Mike describes as “so chewy and so good!” – bulks up the soup and makes it a filling meal. Don’t forget to top with finely grated Parmesan (or vegan alternative)  – it really tastes delicious. Serve with crusty whole grain rolls, or a side salad!

Recipe: Roasted Vegetable Soup with Pearl Barley

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups water (to cook barley)
  • 1 medium white potato, scrubbed (I left skin on but you don’t have to) and cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1 small parsnip, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1 shallot, peeled and halved
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (low sodium if preferred)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan (or vegan Parmesan), for garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Prepare roasted vegetables: Preheat oven to 400F. Place diced vegetables in a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish and toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Place in oven and – tossing periodically – let vegetables roast for 20-25 minutes, or until tender and caramelized. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare pearl barley: Combine barley and 1 1/2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, or until most of the water is absorbed and barley is al dente. Remove from heat, transfer barley to colander and rinse under cold water (this will remove excess starch). Set aside.

Finish soup: Heat 1 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute just until golden brown. Add paprika, cumin and coriander and stir until spices coat garlic. Add roasted vegetables, vegetable broth and bay leaf and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and let simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf and puree soup using an immersion blender (or by transferring the soup to a conventional blender in a couple batches, then back to saucepan). Taste and adjust with salt if necessary. Add cooked barley to soup and continue to simmer until barley is warmed through. Serve, topping each potion with grated Parmesan or vegan Parmesan, and freshly ground black pepper. Eat!

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