Friday, 22 July 2016

Soup Barley

For some reason, they are calling this recipe soup barley in our History of Royal Food course, rather than barley soup.  Anyway it is a thick and hearty dish, just right for King George.  Poor old George III had a bad tummy, so often ate a simple soup at the start of his dinner.  Then of course another 8 dishes came to the table! 

I love barley; it brings back childhood memories of mum's Sunday night soups.  And as barley swells so much when it is cooked, it must have been a boon to a busy mum trying to feed 4 hungry children.

I was a bit worried that this soup would not be very flavourful as it has so few ingredients but it was in fact delicious.  You need to use a really good stock (plus I threw in a couple of sneaky ingredients).



1.9L of good quality stock - I used chicken but use your fave

225g. pearl barley

30g. butter

2 tbs olive oil

2 brown onions, shredded or finely chopped

190g. mushrooms

30g. sultanas or raisins

2 pinches dried thyme leaves

1 pinch dried chilli flakes

pepper to taste


Pour the cold stock into a large saucepan

Add the barley and give it a stir

Bring to the boil then let it gently boil away till it has reduced to about half the original liquid - this will take from 45 mins. to 1 hour

Meanwhile, fry the onions in the olive oil and butter till translucent

Add the mushrooms to the onions and sauté them till lightly cooked

Now tip the veg. into the barley soup and stir them in

Don't forget to add the sultanas

Throw in the thyme and chilli 

Season with pepper (salt probably won't be necessary)

Add a dash of cream (optional)

Notes:  I used some of the leftover stock I had from making the capon with oranges so it was a very tasty base for this soup

tipping the barley into the cold stock  

mushrooms chopped  

frying the onions 

caramelising the onions and sautéing the mushies 

Well actually, I had a bit of an accident with the mushies.  I was trying to research if the Georgians would have used butter or oil for frying and forgot to check them - and yes they were burning! So I thought what the heck, I'll just keep on sautéing:=)  Don't worry, I changed the frypan 'cos onion was stuck like a wad of chewing gum to the pan. 

in go the sultanas

add the herbs and seasoning at the end 

looks aren't everything! (including my manky nighttime snap)   

Not the best looking soup around, but it tasted great.  The original soup doesn't have chilli or mushrooms or thyme.  And oddly it says to just throw the shredded onion in at the end; no mention of cooking it at all.  It mentions a handful of raisins going in (I prefer sultanas); my handful was 30g. but if you had a big blokey hand, who knows?  And yes it ended up quite thick like a porridge.  Add more stock at the end if you wish.

Original recipe 

New and Easy Method of Cookery, Elizabeth Cleland, 1755 
Boil a hough of beef in eight pints of water, and a pound of barley, on a slow fire; let it boil to four pints; then put in onions, pepper, salt, and raisins if you like them, or you may put in greens and leeks.

my brown onion doodle


  1. Interesting! I never would have thought to add raisins to a soup! ;) I guess similar to some of the old Sultan-time recipes where they added raisins and dried currants to savory dishes.

    1. Hi joy
      It is such a small amount of sultanas that you barely notice them. You just get a little sweet pop now and then.

  2. You've picked the perfect weather for this soup! It's so cold and this would go down a real treat! :D

    1. It was surprisingly good Lorraine. And so hearty.

  3. I absolutely love barley and use it often. This is definitely one for me Sherry :)

    1. Barley is so comforting and earthy I think I love it. This soup was a surprise. I really liked it!


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