This morning I had Pearl Barley soup for breakfast. It’s not a first, in fact whenever I feel like my digestion is particularly sluggish – lately caused by many rich dinners out, with probably a few too many wines – I often will have soup for breakfast.
Soups are naturally easier to digest, and are a great way to get a bunch of healthy seasonal vegetables and herbs in one tasty shot. I’ve made this soup extra nutritious by adding immuno-protective shiitake mushrooms and kombu*. Plus they give the stock added flavour. I always keep them on hand for this reason.
I go to pearl barley for a number of reasons. I love the texture. It’s chewy, firm but juicy mouthfeel is more-ish to me. It’s also great for cleaning the bowels (not as good as non-pearled barley, but I’ll get to that in a moment), and has a sweet nature, meaning that in the process, my digestive organs are getting nourished. This is particularly helpful for breakfast, when Qi of the body is in the Spleen from 7-9am – a time when we’re likely eating breakfast.
Pearl Barley vs. Barley
Pearl barley has had most of the husk removed. This makes it faster to cook, but has had the bran removed, which is most of the fibre and mineral component. Being a wholefood advocate, why would I reach for pearl barley? When the digestion has been weakened over time, putting denser, high nutrient foods into the digestion isn’t the best idea. These foodstuffs are often harder to digest, and while at first glance, can seem the healthier option, they can in fact tax the energy (qi) of the earth element in the process of their digestion.
Pearl Barley and Vegetable Soup with Shiitake and Kombu Stock
Glug of olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, largely diced
1 medium fennel bulb, largely diced
2 Tblsp fennel fronds, roughly chopped
Parsley stalks, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
Any combination of the following seasonings you have on hand: dried oregano, sage, basil, thyme, celery seed, fennel seed
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Large handful parsley leaves, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. pearl barley, rinsed
2.5 c. boiling water
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
2 dried shiitake mushrooms
5cm piece of dried kombu*
- In a soup pot or coated cast iron pot, heat the olive oil gently then add the onion, carrot, fennel bulb and fronds with 1/2 tsp salt, a couple of grinds of fresh pepper, parsley stalks. Saute until softened and the onion is translucent.
- Add the garlic and 1.5 tsp of dried seasonings and cayenne pepper with 1/2 the parsley leaves. Saute for 1 minute, stirring so the garlic doesn’t burn. Add a pinch more salt
- Add the washed pearl barley and stir for 30 seconds coating the barley with all the oil and flavours
- Add the water, shiitake and kombu, bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low for at least 45 minutes with the lid on. The longer you cook, the better the flavours develop.
Variation: Add a chunk of parmesan rind for extra flavour
- Add the remaining parsley and cook for a further 2 minutes
- Turn off heat and let steam with lid on for 10 minutes. Check for seasoning.
Optional: slice the shiitake mushrooms and stir through the soup.
- Remove the kombu and bay leaves and serve with crusty bread and freshly grated parmesan for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you’re vegan, top with almesan
*Kombu is no longer available in Australia due to the “Bonsoy conspiracy” (sorry, I had to get political), which annoys me to no end. Kombu is super high in nutrients that are lacking from our diet due to depleted soils. I’ve been saving my Kombu since just before this happened. Try replacing with Wakame or Dulse seaweed.