Pearl barley broth

Pearl barley broth #vegetarian #soup

This soup reminds me of my grandmother, it is like something she would have made, although she would have used a beef or lamb stock. I’m a much more slap dash cook than my grandma, who was very careful in the way chopped her vegetables and put food together. That was always the essence of grandmother food for me the extra care and devotion that went into it. Because this soup reminds me of my grandma I take extra care and devotion when I make it. I cut all the vegetables small and regular, just like she would have done. I even take special care with the parsley and slice it extra finely so it gives the broth a delicate look which is just the thing when you’re feeling poorly. I like cooking food that connects me to the past and to loved one that are no longer with us, like I’m continuing a never-ending story of food, family and love.

Pearl barley broth

Adapted from River Cottage Veg everyday! by Hugh Fearnly- Whittingstall

  • 15 grams butter
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a few sprigs of thyme, leaves only, chopped
  • 1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small parsnip, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • A few gratings of nutmeg
  • A good pinch of cayenne pepper
  • A good pinch of ground mace (optional)
  • 100 grams (3.5 ounces) barley, rinsed
  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock
  • A small handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat butter in a large saucepan. Saute onions with bay leaf and thyme until onion is soft and translucent. ( About 15 minutes) Add carrot, parsnip and celery and saute for another five minutes. Stir in the coriander, nutmeg, cayenne and mace.
  2. Add the barley, pour in stock and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 25-30 minutes until barley is very soft and remove bay leaf.
  3. You can serve this soup as a broth or if you prefer a thicker soup take a cup of soup, puree in a food processor until smooth then return it to the soup. If you making this soup ahead of time, it will thicken up over night and make this step unnecessary. Just before serving stir in parsley and adjust seasoning if necessary.


  1. This looks so comforting. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Justine says:

    Looks wonderful. I love the idea of connection with the past.
    The quantity for pearl barley is missing-how much is needed?

    • Just fixed the quantity. Thanks for letting me know I’m impressed how many people read the recipe to notice the barley was missing. You send things out and you never know if people read it.

  3. Tina Edwards says:

    One of my favourites , but try as I might I couldn’t find the quantity for the Pearl Barley, am I just not seeing it ??? Tina

  4. Linda Sampson says:

    How much barley? I don’t see it listed in the ingredients.

  5. This sounds quite similar to a soup my Mum made all through my childhood – using lamb stock. She called it Scotch Broth – it was my favourite! I will forever have a soft spot for pearl barley in brothy soups.

  6. It was cold and wet and wintry yesterday, and a pot of this soup bubbling away on stove was just what was called for. It reminds me of one my mother and grandmother used to make, and it was delicious. The recipe mentions cayenne, but a quantity doesn’t appear in the list – I used about 1/4 teaspoon, but I’d be interested to know what it was meant to be. In any case, with some crusty bread this was just the thing to cheer one up on a miserable day, and will definitely become part of my winter repertoire. I also made your Moroccan pumpkin and chickpea stew, which is waiting in the fridge for tonight’s dinner – that one’s on high rotation in our house. Love your blog, thanks for posting

    • The original recipe called for a pinch but I always add a bit more, probably 1/4 of a teaspoon in fact. Glad you enjoyed the soup, the chickpea and pumpkin stew is on high rotation in our house in the cooler months as well. Thanks for taking the time to leave such a lovely comment.

  7. How good is a good barley soup! It is not quite wintery enough here (waiting for the 12C and 13C days); I love how these types of soups transport us back to our Grandmother’s kitchens.

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