Today was a two soup sort of day. Snow ghosts swirled on the path, ducking in and out of trees this morning, whipped up by the frenetic energy in the air foretelling the coming snow. We face two snow storms over as many days, a sliver of time between the two apparently divides what probably should prove to be a prolonged snow fall. The cats hare snuggly and the sky is covered in stitched together clouds. Already the roads are covered in ice and so it was no surprise that today two soups bubbled and simmered on our stovetop, one of them being a playful take on a Canadian Soup I briefly saw in the largest of our cookbooks. This tome of mouthwatering meals floats around the house, enticing all of us to flip through a few of its pages and each time I do so, everything is new. Today, a simple meatball soup reminiscent of Italian Wedding caught my eye.
In keeping with the nature of Culina Mundi, I wandered into the kitchen and prepared a soup so unlike the one I briefly saw; Bubs continued to peruse its glossy pages while I set about chopping the onion. I found this soup only needed half of one of the onions from the CSA; they are so fresh the oils and flavour seem particularly strong, even pungent to which my poor eyes could attest. Tear streamed down my cheeks and I felt like I did when I first starting cooking.
A few notes about the barley. It is traditionally found in beef stews but since I only meant to emulate one, I toasted the barley to make up for the lack of meatballs. The toasting brought out a complex nuttiness to the barley, especially enhanced by bits of onion mixed about. I intended on caramelizing a bit of liquid against the barley but since Bubs had just made off with the last of the apple cider and strawberry juice wasn’t going to cut it so I settled on the unexpected. Pickle juice is entirely underrated in cooking, it is certainly acrid because of the vinegar in the brine but if you can flash cook it off with a bit sugar added to the mix, it’s a lovely addition. Be sure to add the demera sugar prior to the pickle so that it bubbles away into a slight sugar coating on the barley.
I served this stew with the most tender tea biscuits I have ever had. They were Mr.’s creation: To cut out the fat he used mango puree which somehow made for the best tea biscuits he’s made and he is the official tea biscuit baker around here. The mango biscuit should be up soon but until it is, I am absolutely positive that a traditional biscuit would do!
Be warned that the barley will thicken some of the soup, I found it necessary to add a fair amount of water to keep it from becoming a risotto, keep a kettle of boiling water at the ready if you find it thickening too quickly. Because the only ingredient that seems to need a specific cook time and that is only 20 to 25 minutes this is a meal that is quick to prepare.
½ white onion
4 carrots, peeled and diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
one cup white pearl barley
one tablespoon demera sugar
3-4 tablespoons pickle juice
500 mL chicken stock
1 litre of boiling water
¼ cup stewed tomatoes
one apple, finely diced with the peel still on
S&P to taste
- In a medium sized pot heat one tablespoon of oil on medium-low heat until it slips easily across the bottom of the pan. At this point, add the onion and sprinkle of kosher salt. Cook until translucent and the oils release.
- Bring the heat up to a snappy medium-high and quickly add the barley. Using a wooden spoon, turn the barley so that it does not burn. It will begin to make a snapping sound and slightly brown.
- Add the sugar and quickly stir it in so that you can slowly add the pickle juice. Allow the juice to boil up around the barley before adding the stock, water and tomatoes.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, including the apple. Cover and boil for 20 to 25 minutes, checking the water level periodically..
- Salt and pepper to taste before serving.