Lentil, barley, and rice soup

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Kelda Hains described this soup as the sort of recipe you keep tucked away for times when the cupboard is almost bare but you are in need of something nourishing and substantial. From a cup of lentils, a couple of tablespoons of rice and barley, plus the usual suspects of onion, carrot, and celery, comes a soup that makes you pause after the first spoonful to either pat yourself on the back for making it or compliment the cook on their truly good work.

Lentil, barley, and rice soup (Lois Daish, Listener, April 29, 2006, p.61)

8 cups (2 litres) of light beef or chicken stock or water (I used water)

1 heaped teaspoon tomato paste

3/4 cup red lentils

2 tablespoons arborio or other short-grain rice

2 tablespoons pearl barley

3 tablespoons oil

3 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

4 celery stalks, thinly sliced

2 onions, quartered and thinly sliced

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or more to taste (will be much tastier if you toast whole cumin seeds in a dry frying pan and then grind them in a mortar and pestle)

freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

Put the stock or water into a large saucepan, bring to the boil and add the tomato paste, lentils, barley and rice. Bring back the boil and then lower the heat and simmer while you prepare the vegetables.

Put the oil in a large frying pan and add the carrots, celery and onions. Season with salt and pepper and gently fry until the onion starts to soften. Sprinkle with the cumin and transfer the contents of the frying pan to the saucepan of soup. Continue to simmer the soup until the grains and vegetables are very tender – about 45 minutes. Add more water to the soup if it is very thick. Taste the soup and add more salt, pepper and cumin if needed and squeeze in enough fresh lemon juice to add a delicate tang.

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Silverbeet & pearl barley soup

silverbeet soup

I toyed with calling this ‘Swiss chard & pearl barley soup’ in an attempt to up the fashionability of this simple, but incredibly delicious recipe. In the end, I decided to proudly stick with ‘silverbeet’ as this recipe isn’t about trying to be flashy, it’s about carefully cooking simple ingredients to bring out their best flavours; a great example of Lois’ approach to cooking. Slowly cooking quality, locally-grown and seasonal vegetables, adding some beans and cooked barley to create a soup with a lovely background sweetness and interesting textures. Inexpensive and entirely nourishing, I wish more people knew how to make this soup for themselves.

Silverbeet & pearl barley soup (adapted slightly from Lois Daish, Listener, April 10, 1999, p. 55)

1/3 cup pearl barley

1.5 litres water

3 tablespoons cooking oil

2 onions, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

1 can peeled tomatoes

1 small bunch silverbeet

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

sea salt & freshly ground pepper

grated parmesan or grana padana for serving (optional)

Simmer the barley and water in a pot for about 45 minutes until the barley is tender. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pot and cook the onion, carrot and celery together over a medium heat until softened; you don’t want to brown the vegetables. It’s important to allow some time for this ‘soffritto’ stage, as this will give a lovely sweet base to the soup.

To prepare the silverbeet, cut the leaves from the stems and wash both thoroughly. Slice the stems into thirds lengthwise, then slice into thin ribbons across the width. Slice the leaves into ribbons, keeping the stems separate from the leaves. Add the silverbeet stems to the onion mixture as well as the can of tomatoes. Add a sprinkling of salt, cover with a lid and turn the heat down to low. Leave to cook for about 15-20 minutes.

Add the cooked barley along with its cooking water to the soup, and add the beans and silverbeet leaves. Season with more salt and lots of ground black pepper. Place the lid back on and bring to the boil. Serve the soup in warmed bowls, grate over some parmesan if you fancy it, and enjoy with a piece of chewy wholegrain sourdough on the side.

Potato soup with roasted garlic & silverbeet

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‘While it might take the bluest of moods to make you sit down to a plate of plain mashed potatoes for dinner, a bowl of potato soup tells a more cheerful story.’

Lois Daish, Listener, June 24, 2000, p. 50

The cheerful story is this: from the most simple and inexpensive ingredients a soup can be made that is delicious, good for you, and very good for your state of mind. Lois gives a basic potato soup recipe which can then be added to with roasted garlic, winter greens (cavolo nero, silverbeet), leeks or smoked fish. I chose roasted garlic and silverbeet which I will give the method for below. With enough leftover for a second meal, I turned the remainders into a satisfying dinner for two by flaking over some smoked fish.

This recipe will make enough for three people; Lois gives a helpful guideline of one medium-sized potato per serving of soup and increase the other ingredients correspondingly.

Potato soup with roasted garlic & silverbeet (Lois Daish, Listener, June 24, 2000, p. 50-51)

2 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, finely sliced

3 cloves garlic, finely sliced

3 medium-sized floury potatoes (I used Agria)

salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper

1 small bayleaf

water or chicken stock

milk or cream

soft green herbs such as parsley, dill, chervil, chives (optional)

The optional extras:

A bunch of silverbeet

2 bulbs garlic

Roasting the garlic:

Put the garlic on to roast before you start the soup. Heat oven to 190°C. Prepare the garlic by slicing off the tip of the bulb to expose the ends of the cloves within. Place inside a piece of tinfoil, sprinkle with a little olive oil and water and seal up the package. Place onto a little oven tray and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until the cloves are very tender and your kitchen is filled with the sweet smell of caramelised garlic. Leave the bulbs to cool and then squeeze out the insides of the cloves and set aside.

The soup base:

Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot and add the onion and garlic. Cook very gently until the onion has softened. While the onions cook, peel the potatoes and slice into thin slices (cut in half, place cut side down and then slice). Add the potato to the pan and cook until they start to stick to the bottom but have not started to colour. Add enough water or stock to just cover the potatoes. Cover the pot and simmer until the potatoes are tender.

The silverbeet:

While the soup is simmering, prepare the silverbeet. Wash the leaves to remove any dirt or wildlife and strip the green leaves away from the stalks. Finely chop the stalks and put into a bowl, then finely slice the leaves and keep them separate from the stalks. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the silverbeet stalks; bring back to the boil and cook for about 3 minutes, then add the silverbeet leaves and continue cooking for another couple of minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Finishing the soup:

Remove the bayleaf from the pot and add the roasted garlic. Purée the soup using a handheld stick blender or food processor bowl; do this in short bursts as quickly as possible as this will help to prevent a gluey texture caused by over-processing. Add the silverbeet and chopped green herb (if using) to the smooth soup base and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed bowls and top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.