I'm totally in love with barley and lately, it has entered my list of favourite grains. It's chewy texture, nutty flavour and excellent taste have won me over. And it only helps that it is loaded with healthful properties. I have been cooking soups, stews and even including it in my khichadi (a wholesome one-pot meal with rice or, lentils and vegetables).
I'm not into typical soup recipes for a few reasons. I like to use fresh ingredients and somehow stocks (not easily available here) and seasoning cubes don't fascinate me. Neither do I have the inclination at this point in time to make my own stock which could be rather time consuming but maybe well worth it. Someday I would give it a go, but it is not practical to incorporate it into daily cooking.
Now, it so happens that we do love a bowl of good soup, especially with warm toasted and herbed breads.This means that I have to hunt for or create recipes incorporating my inclinations and inhibitions. This is one such recipe that wins. It is wholesome, nutritious, comforting and tasty. The protein from the lentils, the carbohydrates and other essential nutrients from the barley and the vitamins from the vegetables make this a complete meal.
One spice that needs an honourable mention here is asafetida. Add a good pinch to smoking hot oil and its garlicky flavour fills the kitchen. It is great in taste and one of my most used spices. Asafetida does a fantastic job in the soup here and helps to digest the lentils which can be a little heavy on the system.
I also need to mention my love for celery. This is one of those recipes where you use both the ribs and the leaves and nothing goes waste. When I chop the leaves with my mezzaluna, the aroma arising from the innards of the celery leaves entices me and I'm in heaven.
This soup is quick to make if you use a pressure cooker. So, if you want a healthy, tasty and quick one pot meal kind of a recipe then this is it. My little toddler who is quite particular in his tastes relishes this soup so I'm guessing its a good recipe for children too. Perfect for those week days when you are tired and don't feel like slaving in the kitchen and yet crave a good meal or a have a family to feed. Pair it with bread made this way and you have a great meal on hand!
Pearl Barley & Lentil Soup Recipe
You could experiment with other lentils here but make sure you use pearl barley as barley can be difficult to cook and eat.
150 gm (3/4 cup) lentils (masoor dal)
100 gm (1/2 cup) pearl barley
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp asafoetida
2 carrots, chopped fine
2 or 3 celery ribs, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp cumin seed powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder or cayenne pepper or paprika flakes
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 cups (1.5 litres) water
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp celery leaves, roughly chopped for garnish
1 tsp lime juice (optional)
Soak the lentils and the barley overnight or for 2 to 4 hours.
In a pressure cooker or saucepan, heat the oil , lower the flame and put in the asafoetida. Stir for a few seconds until it releases aroma and then add the carrots and celery ribs and sauté for a few seconds. Drain and put in the lentils and barley, oregano, parsley, cumin powder, red chilli powder, pepper, and water and bring to a boil.
Add in the salt, cover the lid and pressure cook until 3 or 4 whistles. If using a saucepan or a pot, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the lentils and barley are cooked, about an hour or so.
Adjust the water and salt consistency to your liking, garnish with celery leaves and serve hot.
In the oil free version, I put in all the ingredients minus the oil and cook till done.
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