Childhood Memories – Barley Soup and a Stone and Thatch Cottage
As a child, I was a terribly picky eater (come to think of it, I haven’t changed much!). I remember barley soup very clearly.
My poor Mum was desperate to get some nutrition into me (not that I realized it at the time). Mum was from Belfast in Northern Ireland, and once a year her sister (my aunt) would rent a traditional Irish cottage on the “wild” West coast of Ireland, and we would join her. My aunt spoiled me terribly (which I loved), and one of the things she made for me (which I wouldn’t touch at home) was Scotch Broth, also known as barley soup.
It was full of goodness and I loved it – it was one of the very few foods I actually looked forward to.
I’ve got a lovely recipe for Scotch Broth or Barley Soup at the end of this article, but first, let’s look briefly at the major benefits of barley (and therefore, of barley soup).
This power-packed whole grain can boost your health and fill you up.
- Lowers Cholesterol – barley contains “beta-glucan,” a fiber that helps to lower bad cholesterol in your blood. (High cholesterol can cause heart attacks and strokes).
- Fiber – One of the most potent sources of fiber (soluble and insoluble), barley is also rich in minerals, antioxidants and vitamins. Fibre helps digestion and keeps you feeling full, so you may eat less and thus help weight control.
- Antioxidants and nutrients – There are nutrients and antioxidants galore in barley, and it’s also high in manganese, lutein, copper and zeaxanthin—all of which are important for good health.
- Helps prevent colon cancer – You can protect yourself from colon cancer by adding barley to your diet. It’s a grain that contains the good bacteria keeping the large intestine functioning properly.
- Stabilizes blood glucose levels – Food is digested more slowly when you eat barley, and the absorption of carbohydrates is also slowed. This makes it a great food for anyone – but especially if you have diabetes.
- Protects against atherosclerosis – This grain is a good source of the B-vitamin niacin which reduces cardiovascular risks.
- Post-menopausal health for women – Consuming whole grains such as barley can prevent high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease that sometimes occurs in post-menopausal women. It slows the progression of plaque that narrows the blood vessels and the progression of stenosis (narrowing of arteries).
Barley has a wonderful, nutty flavor and a consistency similar to pasta, so it adds variety to your recipes while also having some of the best health benefits of any grain.
You can also enjoy sprouted barley.
Its robust flavor and texture can improve almost any dish.
A big pot of soup containing barley is an especially good meal for a cold winter’s day. It’s wonderful comfort food!
It doesn’t have to be Scotch Broth or barley soup – barley will improve the nutrition in whatever soup you’re cooking.
And of course, barley is much more green and eco friendly than meat, and it’s better for climate change than meat too!
Barley Soup Recipe (Scotch Broth)
Here’s my favourite recipe for barley soup or Scotch Broth. It serves 6-8.
- 1 lb / 450g lamb or mutton – any cut will do
- 1 cup / 250g pearl barley (it’s best to soak this overnight in water, but if you don’t have time it’s fine)
- 1 turnip (or 1 swede)
- 3 large carrots
- 2 medium onions
- 1 large stalk of celery
- 1 large leek (optional)
- ½ bunch fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander / cilantro
- 1 clove
- 1 bayleaf
- 6 pints / 3 litres cold water
- Salt and pepper
- Place lamb in a large saucepan and cover it with water.
- Place pan over medium to high heat.
- While the water is heating, peel and dice the turnip, the carrots and the onions. Add them to the meat.
- Slice the leek and celery and add them to the meat.
- Skim off the froth as you cook for 15 minutes.
- Rinse the barley and add it to the pan together with the parsley, coriander, clove and bay leaf. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Continue to simmer the soup for approximately 2hrs or until the barley is soft and the soup has become thick and almost sticky.
- Stir the soup as it cooks and skim off any fat with a large spoon. Add more hot water from the kettle if required.
- Stir more often towards the end of the cooking time – the barley may stick to the base of the pan.
- Remove the lamb 15 minutes from the end and let it cool a little before removing the meat from the bones.
- Discard the bones or use them for another soup or broth.
- Cut the meat into small pieces and add it back to the soup.
- Taste the soup, add more salt if necessary and serve piping hot with crusty bread.
Scotch broth or barley soup is sure to be a family favourite. It’s nourishing, warming, filling and comforting.
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How do you eat barley? Let me know in the comments below.
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