Recipe: Cozy Barley & Vegetable Soup w/ Garlic Rosemary Croutons

Recipe: Cozy Barley & Vegetable Soup w/ Garlic Rosemary Croutons

By Naturopath Steph Stack


Soup. Hot food from a pot. It’s easy, it’s cheap, you can use leftover vegetables to make even more delicious leftovers. Its alchemy really. Souper-duper.

I start craving soup (as well as stout) as soon as the weather gives a chilly nod. So expect more soup recipes soon. Perhaps accompanied by stout. Or maybe I’ll just write a whole post on “delcious cold brown soup from a bottle”.


Anyway, this particular soup is one hearty vegetable soup pumped up with a bit of barley and shujjed up with croutons (old bread alchemy). Basically, this is old vegetables with old bread that ends up tasting like a brand new delicious thing. Plus, one serve of this magical soup is giving you around half your recommended daily intake of fibre. That’s magic for your bowels!

Now, let me bang on about barley. I have used pearl barley in this recipe because that was the only type I could get my hands on in the supermarket when I had a craving for it. Pearled barley is kind of like the white rice of rice, whereas hulled barley is more like the brown rice of rice. But you’re definitely getting more nutritional bang from pearled barley than white rice. But just a note, all types of barley contain gluten so if you’re celiac, it’s unfortunately a no-go. You could substitute brown rice or quinoa instead.

So, what’s the difference between pearl barley and hulled barley? Hulled barley (also known as de-hulled/scotch/pot barley) is considered the wholegrain version of barley, as it has only had its very coarse outer husk removed but still retains its bran. Pearl(ed) barley, has been processed further to remove the bran as well as it’s husk. So, naturally the hulled version retains more fibre and more nutrients than the pearled variety. However, you’re still getting some goodies from your pearly friend. Many of the health benefits of barley are conferred from its fibre content, which is distributed throughout the entire grain, not just the bran, with pearled barley therefore still containing a decent whack of it.

Barley is a big-wig when it comes to fibre. It contains more fibre than most grains, including oats. It contains large amounts of beta-glucan, the fibre in oats which we all yap on about. Studies have shown that the fibre in barley is significantly associated with decreasing both total and LDL cholesterol, lowering blood glucose levels, and potentially blood pressure. It also promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in our guts, helping to produce butyric acid, a friendly fatty acid which provides fuel for our gut cells.

Traditionally, barley has been used to fortify the digestive system, build the blood, soothe inflamed mucous membranes, and reduce fluid accumulations. Barley water, which is simply the water by-product from boiling barley, has been used across many cultures for its health benefits, including tonifying the lungs and reducing spasm of the bronchioles. This makes barley a winner for not only asthmatics, but also for those buggersome chesty colds that tend to afflict us around this time of year.

Another great thing about barley is that it’s cheap! Even the organic stuff! It’s grown quite extensively in Australia, so it’s very easy to get your hands on at a very decent price. And hey, you’d never believe it but cheap food is “superfood” too. I’ve seen this whole ‘health and wellness’ industry become really misguided and quite subject to exclusivity which is bullshit. Eating healthy shouldn’t cost you a fortune or stress you out. Certain foods and diets get hyped up in the media, and have created an image that optimal health requires your food to be cracked out on exotic algae, fermented amazonian tree roots and alkalised water from some spirit rock in the jungle. And the entire contents of your wallet. Plus a yoga top that says how much you love yourself or something.

It really doesn’t.

So don’t worry. Have some good old fashioned barley soup and just remember how privileged we all are to have so many choices, and also know that your $3 barley is working wonders on your cardiovascular system, and you’re probably going to have a really good bowel movement in the morning.

Yep. Barley. It’s good shit.

Cozy Barley + Vegetable Soup w/ Garlic Rosemary Croutons


Soup Ingredients (about 5 serves)

2 big carrots diced

1-2 zucchinis diced

2-3 sticks of celery diced

1 brown onion diced

1 small lemon or half a large lemon, quatered

a few handfuls of spinach chopped

2 cloves of garlic sliced

2 tsp oregano

1 ½  tsp rosemary

½ tsp chili flakes and/or 1 x fresh red chili (depending on how hot you like it)

½ cup raw pearl barley (ideally soaked for 8-12 hours, but fine if not, however best to soak whole/hulled barley)

1 x 400g can butter beans or about 1 ½  cups of cooked butter beans

1 can diced tomatoes

2 cans of water (use empty tomato can)

1 msg-free stock cube

a few sprigs of parsley to garnish

Salt and pepper

Crouton Ingredients

Thick-sliced bread (old or fresh bread is fine) (about 1 x piece per person/serve)

Olive oil (about 1 tbsp. per piece of bread)

Garlic microplaned or crushed (about ½ a clove per piece of bread)

Rosemary dried (about ¼ tsp per piece of bread)

Salt (a pinch per piece of bread)

* Use this as a guide because it will depend on how large your bread slices are. You want the bread to soak up the oil mixture but not be swimming in it.


Heat a decent glug of olive oil (about 2 tbsp) on medium heat, then add the onions and cook until soft. Add garlic, rosemary, oregano, chili and cook for a couple more minutes. Then add the carrots and celery (not the spinach and zucchini yet) and cook for another couple of minutes.

Next add 1 can of tomatoes, 2 cans of water, stock cube, lemon pieces and raw barley. Stir well, cover, turn heat to high and bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer with lid on until barley is almost cooked (chewy but not hard, about 30-40 minutes, longer for whole/hulled barley). Add more water if it gets too thick.

Meanwhile, make the croutons while the soup is cooking (see method below).

When the barley is cooked, add the zucchini and cooked beans, and cook for another 10 minutes. Stir in chopped spinach and turn the heat off. Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve topped with croutons, fresh parsley, and cracked pepper.

For the Croutons

Mix oil, garlic, and rosemary together.

Chop up bread into bite size pieces and soak in the oil mixture (you can let this soak while the soup is cooking and fry them up about 10 minutes before the soup is ready).

Depending on your fry pan, you may want to add a little bit of butter or coconut oil to the pan first to prevent sticking/burning.

Cook on medium/high heat until crispy and brown, turning to evenly brown both sides. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.

Nutrition Information (per serve) 

Carbohydrates  59g // Protein 14g // Healthy Fats 14g // Fibre 13g


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