Regular readers will know that DH is not a big soup eater. In fact, he considers soup to be a waste of time and vegetables. I disagree, vehemently, but for the sake of domestic harmony I tend not to make too much in the way of soup. So when he’s away for a week, as happens from time to time, soup-making is GO!
This one was inspired by something I used to make when I was a student, which was basically slow-cooked onions and barley in stock, occasionally with mushrooms added. The longer it cooked, the more delicious it got, and when I was living in a FREEZING flat, having it burbling away on the stove for hours was one way to heat the place up a bit at the same time as creating a delicious dinner to warm me from the inside. Ah, memories.
Anyway, this updated onion soup is made with a 5-grain mix, instead of plain barley, which adds more texture and a lovely depth of flavour, too. The mix I have contains barley, wheat, spelt, rice and oats, but I’m sure you could use other mixes, or just straight barley, to good effect. The finished soup is thick and satisfying and extremely yummy. To really transform it into a meal, I added a handful of grated cheese to the top of each bowl and zapped it with a blowtorch to create a gooey, melty, brown & crusty cheesy topping that was amazing once you stirred it into the rest of the soup. This didn’t even need bread with it – it was thick, filling, and incredibly tasty.
Of course you could just flash the bowls under a hot grill, but I quite enjoyed the theatricality of the blow-torch, and Kipper was pretty excited about it too – usually we only use our kitchen blowtorch to light the barbecue!
The cheese is optional, of course. If you’re vegan, or otherwise dairy-avoiding. Mind you, it’s still pretty great without the cheese. Mmmmm.
- 700-750g onions
- 4-5 tbsp olive oil
- 125g 5-grain mix (barley, wheat, spelt, rice & oats) or pearl barley
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt & pepper
- 1-2 handfuls of grated cheese
- Peel the onions and slice finely. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, and cook the onions, covered, for around 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- When the onions are very soft and starting to caramelise, add the grains and stir well to coat in the oil. Pour in the stock, and add the bay leaf. Simmer, covered, for at least 1 hour on a very low heat.
- Once the grains are thoroughly cooked and everything is very soft, remove from the heat. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Transfer half the soup to a large bowl and liquidise using a stick blender, then return to the pan and combine with the unblended soup.
- Heat through, and serve piping hot. If the soup is too thick, add a little hot water or stock to reach the desired consistency.
- Pour the soup into serving bowls and add a generous handful of grated cheese to the top. Melt and scorch with a blowtorch, or flash under a hot grill until melted, brown and bubbling.
- You can leave this soup simmering on a very low heat for several hours if you like. The flavour will only improve, and as the grains disintegrate they thicken the soup beautifully.
I’m also entering this soup into No Croutons Required, a vegetarian soup & salad challenge hosted by Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa at Lisa’s Kitchen.