Monday, 7 December 2015

Winter is here, Barley Broth to comfort and sustain!

The start of December and snow lies all around, not deep and crisp and even but sparse and slushy and slippy!  We have had two snow falls in the last fortnight here in west Aberdeenshire but so far the temperature has still been warm and to my delight the garden and polytunnel are still yielding produce for us.  I spent a few minutes rooting around the other day and picked enough to make a big pot of broth, one of our family favourites at this time of year.

I used everything apart from the cavalo nero, which I saved for the next evening's supper.

Ali's Winter Barley Broth

1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 onions 
a Handful of carrots (probably around 3 medium sized ones)
2 sticks of celery
3 leeks
Big handful of parsley
1 cup of barley, soaked overnight in plenty of water
Approximately 1.5 lt/3 pints of chicken or veggie stock (I use homemade)
Some leftover chicken (from the bird used to make the stock, I buy local free range chickens so always use every bit of them)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop the onions, and start by gently softening them in the oil in a large soup pan or casserole.

2. Once the onions have started to become translucent, add the chopped carrots, celery and leeks.  Give this all a good stir and cook away until the pot starts to sizzle.

3.  Add your stock and barley at this stage, followed by as much chopped parsley as you fancy.  Bring everything to a gentle boil.

4.  At this point I pop a lid on the pot and put it in the bottom oven of my Aga for a good hour to gently simmer away.  I don't season at this stage as I always wait until the barley has become soft and toothsome before I do.  On a regular cooker just reduce the heat until you have a low simmer and cook for about the same time, stirring regularly.

5.  The broth is cooked when the Barley has plumped up but still has a bit of bite to it.  This is when I season and then add the pre-cooked left over chicken and bring it all back up to a rolling simmer for about 10 minutes before serving.  We eat this with oatcakes, it will stick to your ribs as my Mum used to say!

I make many variations of this soup, sometimes with lentils, split peas too and depending on what we have in the garden, but I have to say that this version with barley in is my favourite.  Just the thing for the dark and short days we have at this time of year.

I got this lovely shot of Brooke our Shetland pony coming in for some hay last weekend.  I am trying to keep the horses out this year, as we now only have one 'big' horse, Brea, and two little ones, Brooke (above) and the even smaller MissyBell who is an American Miniature Horse.  As the herd are all getting on a bit I'd rather they keep moving, eating ad lib hay whenever they want than stay in stables at night, however, the condition of our fields and quantity of mud is always the deciding factor.  I much prefer cold, sunny and frosty weather and I think the horses do too!

Wondering if this will be my last post for 2015?  Perhaps it is, but I hope to return more regularly in the New Year.

Wishing you and yours all the very best for the festive season and a happy and healthy 2016 to us all!