The weather has been in a right old mood lately. Some days it's so bitter cold it hits you right down to the bone and on others you can smell spring in the air, there's the first signs of daffodils and the sun is so bright and warm all you want to do is venture outside.
This dish is for those icy cold, late winter evenings. When you feel like having dinner, snuggled up on the sofa, watching your favourite series.
It's everything a hearty stew is, without the meat and cooks in a quarter of the time - oh and it makes a great lunch to take to work the next day.
- 15g butter or 2tbsp olive oil (or beef dripping from Sunday's roast)
- 2 large onions, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- A few sprigs of thyme, leaves only, chopped
- 1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1 small carrot, finely chopped
- 1 small parsnip, finely chopped
- ¼ tsp ground coriander
- A sprinkle of ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp ground mace
- 100g pearl barley, rinsed
- 1.5 litres beef stock (if you want to go 100% veggie use vegetable stock)
- A small handful of parsley, finely chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 slightly stale sourdough breadrolls, cut into 2 cm cubes
- salt and pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C.
- Heat the butter (or beef dripping) in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and gently sweat the onions with the bay leaf and thyme for about 15 minutes, until soft and translucent.
- Add the celery, carrot and parsnip and sauté for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the coriander, nutmeg, cayenne and mace. Add the barley or spelt, pour in the stock and add some salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 25–30 minutes, or until the grain is very soft. Remove the bay leaf.
- After your soup's been cooking for 15 minutes, place the bread into a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss a couple of times to make sure the bread is coated in the olive oil.
- Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until your soup is done.
- To thicken the soup a little, remove 2 ladles full and blitz with a stick blender. Add the puree back to the soup and stir.
- Serve the soup topped with the crunchy croûtons and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.