Root Vegetable Barley Soup – No Galactic Battle Here,
Simply Comfort & Joy in a Bowl
With Star Wars on so many minds and movie screens, it’s easy to imagine this odd-looking object as an alien planet. “Perhaps it’s Coruscant, a big deal in the Star Wars universe,” wrote my son-in-law Peter. But fortunately, it’s not. This winter galactic star goes by the name celeriac, aka celery root. With its firm, white flesh and delicate celery and parsley-like flavor, celeriac, once peeled, can be eaten raw or cooked. Versatile celeriac makes Root Vegetable Barley Soup especially soothing and flavorful.
There’s no galactic battle taking place in this potage. Instead a team effort takes place in the soup pot. The harmonious blend of creamy barley, mild celeriac, sweet parsnips, colorful rutabagas and silken fresh spinach in a well-flavored and full-bodied vegetable broth creates comfort and joy in a bowl.
Enjoy Root Vegetable Barley Soup as a delicious, healthy and nurturing antidote to December’s rich holiday fare. Or, perhaps, as a calming tonic after watching any of the heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping Star Wars’ adventures.
Celeriac, along with parsnips, rutabagas and onions share the root vegetable spotlight in Root Vegetable Barley soup.
Trina Hahnemann, Danish chef and author, describes root vegetables as the “gold of Nordic soil.” These nutrient-rich vegetables, that also include carrots, potatoes, turnips, radishes and beets, not only grow well in cold climates, but also store well during the winter months.
How to choose and prepare celeriac
The freshest celeriac still has some of its green top attached. Without its top, choose a firm root that feels heavy for its size. Leave behind those that are dry or wrinkled or have dark brown spots on their skin. The smoother the skin the easier it will be to peel.
- Rinse and brush off any excess dirt.
- Slice off a thin section from both the bottom and top.
- Peel with a vegetable peeler.
- Rinse in cool water to remove any remaining dirt or debris.
- Cut as directed in your recipe.
Root Vegetable Barley Soup
Inspired by and adapted from a Nordic recipe from Trina Hahnemann in Food and Wine Magazine. Trina suggests serving this Scandinavian soup with hearty rye bread.
Remember to add the dark green leek leaves along with the parsnip and celeriac peels to your homemade stock.
Makes 11 cups Printer-Friendly Recipe
Total time: 2 hours including 1 hour to prepare homemade stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced (2 cups)
2-3 leeks, white and tender, light green sections only, thinly sliced, 2 ½ cups
2 medium cloves garlic, crushed
2/3 cup pearled barley, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon salt
9 twists freshly ground pepper
8 ½ cups homemade vegetable stock* or low-sodium prepared vegetable stock
7 fresh thyme sprigs or 4 dry
2 bay leaves
½ pound rutabagas, peeled, ½ inch dice (1 ½ cups)
¾ pound celeriac, peeled, ½ inch dice (3 ¼ cups)
½ pound parsnips, peeled, ½ inch dice (1 ½ cups)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
5 ounces baby spinach
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or ground nutmeg to taste.
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Stir in the onion. Cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the sliced leeks and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir in the drained barley and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the stock, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat so the soup simmers.
- Stir in the rutabagas. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the soup simmers. Partially cover the pot. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the celeriac and parsnips. Partially cover the pot. Simmer the soup for about 35 minutes until the barley and vegetables are tender.
- Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Use an immersion blender or a regular blender to puree about 1/4th of the soup.
- Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
- Just before serving stir in the baby spinach and freshly grated nutmeg.
*After my vegetable stock was made, I dissolved 1 Tablespoon Better Than Bouillon Organic Vegetable Base into 8 ½ cups of stock to boost its flavor.