Vegetable Soup with Barley

To me, this soup is the closest thing you’ll get to a hug in a bowl. It’s my mother’s recipe and
something she always made for me when I was little. I now make it for Amelda when she’s
feeling under the weather.

Serves 4–6

50g (2oz) pearl barley
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 celery sticks, diced
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 small leek, trimmed and diced
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
50g (2oz) rindless streaky bacon, diced (optional)
1.2 litres (2 pints) vegetable or chicken stock (page 225 or 226)
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
crusty bread, to serve (optional)

Place the pearl barley in a sieve and rinse well under cold running water.

Heat the rapeseed oil in a large pan over a medium heat and stir in the celery, onion, carrot, leek and thyme. Add the bacon, if using, and sauté for 5 minutes, until the vegetables are softened and the bacon is sizzling.

Pour in the stock, add the rinsed barley and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables and barley are completely tender but still holding their shape. Stir in the parsley and season to taste.

To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and have a separate basket of crusty bread, if liked.

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