Waldorf kindergartens throughout the United States serve a version of this soup weekly. Imagine that many children sitting down to warm bowls of nourishment. We have enjoyed this soup regularly for at least 12 years. It always brings back memories of kindergarten.
Sometimes, I season this soup with vegetable broth and other times I use a hearty miso. The recipe is easy. If you keep hulled barley in your pantry, you will most likely have all the ingredients you need. It’s an especially good soup for a cold winter. Perfect for dining by the fire after an afternoon playing in the snow.
Hulled barley is less refined than pearl barley, is more nutritious and takes longer to cook. You can find it in most natural food stores. Some children are fine with onions in their soup, but use half an onion and mince it if the pieces need to be hidden.
Simple Barley Soup
1 cup hulled barley, soaked overnight in water to cover
2-3 tsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
6 cups water
1 stalk celery, sliced
1-2 carrots, diced or sliced into half circles or triangles
1-2 red potatoes, peel left on, cut into chunks
2-3 tsp unpasteurized barley or brown rice miso
1. Strain the barley and discard soaking water. Set aside.
2. Place a large soup pot on low medium heat. Add the oil when the pot has warmed. Add the onion as soon as a little piece sizzles gently when placed in the oil. Cook the onion about 5 minutes stirring frequently. Add the barley and saute with the onion for about 5 more minutes. Add the water and a few pinches sea salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook for about 45 minutes. Add more water during this time if needed to keep the barley covered. I usually cook it for a long time and just keep adding water.
3. After the barley and onion have cooked for at least 45 minutes, add the vegetables. Cook until the barley and the vegetables are soft. Add more water if you want a lighter broth or leave it thick and serve as a stew.
4. Put the miso into a dish and stir in a few tablespoons water. Turn the soup to your lowest heat and add the miso. Stir well. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more miso if desired. Cook for 3-5 more minutes. Serve.
Serve soup with a hearty sourdough bread or homemade biscuits and a side of greens.
For a variation, chopped greens can be added to this soup 10-15 minutes before the soup is done.
Garnish with chopped parsley or green onion.