Yep, this is the soup for family life. It’ll do the business for a hearty after-school or after-sports pep-up (it comes into its own during school holidays) but will fare just as well for a family dinner with plenty of hot buttered toast and a bowl of grated parmesan cheese.
1 large leek 3 medium carrots, peeled and thickly sliced 2 sticks celery, trimmed and thickly sliced 1 Tbsp chopped thyme 1 Tbsp olive oil ½ cup barley 2.5 litres water (UK good 2 quarts/US 2 1/1 quarts), or light unsalted stock 400g can crushed tomatoes 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced 1 swede, peeled and diced 1½ tsp salt Large bunch (250g-8 oz) cavolo nero (or Swiss chard or silverbeet) 2 Tbsp chopped parsley 2 bay leaves 1 cup cooked white beans or 400g (14 oz) can white beans, drained Topping (optional) 2 cloves garlic, peeled 2 Tbsp chopped parsley 2 Tbsp chopped mint Finely grated zest 1 lemon ½ cup finely grated parmesan or grano padano
1 Trim, halve and slice the leek as described here Leeks. Put leek, carrots, celery, thyme and oil in a large saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons of water, cover pan with a lid and cook gently for about 20 minutes until vegetables have softened. If vegetables start to catch add a little more water.
2 Put barley in a sieve and rinse under running water. Add to soup pot along with water, tomatoes, potatoes, swede and salt. Bring to a gentle bubble, then lower heat and cook soup gently for 1 hour.
3 Prepare cavolo nero by running a sharp knife down either side of the ribs on each leaf, freeing the green leafy part. Discard ribs and roughly chop leafy part. Add parsley, bay leaves and cavolo nero to soup pot. If using thawed beans from the freezer, add them now. Cook for a further 30 minutes. If using canned beans, add and cook for a further 5 minutes.
4 For the topping, I find it easier to roughly chop the garlic, then to chop it further with a small bunch of parsley and mint sprigs. Mix with the lemon zest and cheese. It will keep for a few days, covered and refrigerated.
You can read about cavolo nero here Cavolo Nero, and Swiss Chard and Silverbeet
I like to soak and cook lots of beans, then pottle them up and keep them in the freezer (way cheaper than canned beans).
When using barley, put it in a sieve ready to rinse, but don’t rinse it until you are ready to add it to the soup or it will stick to itself. Read about barley here Barley