Day 5 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent calendar and it’s a gorgeously warming soup recipe. Perfect for chilly winter days, its comforting and restorative after the stresses and strains of Christmas shopping. Packed full of nourishing rainbow veggies, it is ‘souper’ filling with a large dose of fibre from the barley.
Barley is one of those grains more likely to be found in processed foods than eaten as an every-day grain. Overshadowed by rice and wheat, it actually has a surprising amount of beneficial properties. It’s also fairly cheap unlike other more trendy pseudo-grains like quinoa and buckwheat. The downside for sensitive eaters is it does contain gluten so if you follow a gluten-free diet it has to be avoided.
If you can tolerate barley, it’s definitely worth adding to your repertoire of foods. Containing both soluble and insoluble fibre, it’s can help look after your gut health by aiding good digestion and providing sustenance for the beneficial bacteria hidden deep away in the microbiome. And in a time of over-indulgence, it’s a good idea to take extra care of the microbiome, particularly when seasonal viruses are rife.
As with all grains, it’s best to use wholegrain rather than refined. Pearl barley has been polished, effectively removing some of the beneficial fibre and nutrients. In the UK, look for pot barley; it may take a little longer to cook, but your body will love you for it. Soaking reduces the cooking time; it also helps to remove enzymes that may prevent all the nutrients from being released, so worth doing if you think ahead.
Apart from fibre, barley contains a whole range of nutrients including magnesium and chromium and special compounds called lignans that have been associated with reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. Maybe now you can see how this soup really is souper!
If you can’t tolerate gluten in any form, swap the barley for wholegrain rice, buckwheat or millet. It will have a different texture, but still taste delicious.
Let me know if you give this a go; you don’t have to add the pumpkin sprinkle for the top by the way, but it’s lovely if you do.
Roasted squash and barley soup (serves 4-6)
1 medium butternut squash
1 red onion
1 medium leek
1 medium stick celery
1 fat clove garlic
1 litre vegetable stock
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon fresh sage
salt to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Wash the outside of the squash, chop into chunks and remove the seeds. Cut the onion into quarters. Place both on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes until soft and lightly caramelised.
Tip the barley into a large non-stick frying pan and toast for a few minutes until the aromas are released. Remove from the heat.
Heat a small amount of the stock in the bottom of a saucepan and add the leek and celery. Sauté for a couple of minutes until they start to soften then add the garlic. Add three quarters of the toasted barley, mix well then add 750ml of the stock, the sage and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
The squash will be ready so remove from the oven, cut off any tough bits of skin. Keep a third of the squash to one side and add the remainder to the pan with the onion and simmer for another 15 minutes or so until everything is soft. Remove from the heat, blend until smooth then return to the heat and add the remaining barley and stock.
Bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Finally add the remaining squash, cook for another 10 minutes and it is ready to serve.
To make the pumpkin sprinkle, place the ingredients in the small bowl of a blender and pulse until it has a breadcrumb texture.
Serve the soup in a large bowl with a glug of flaxseed oil and pumpkin sprinkle on top.