Friday, October 31, 2014

Slow Cooker Bean and Barley Soup

The leaves have turned color, and are beginning to fall. Looking out the window, there are as many bare branches as the ones with leaves. Evenings are cool, and nippy. My resolve gave way last week when temperature inside the house dropped to 60 degrees - I turned the heating on already, ignoring my resolve to make it into November without it this year….

Oct. 31st 2014. The first signs  of a frosty night in our backyard.
…And believe it or not, I woke up this morning to a frosty, white backyard…..

All of this makes me want to just curl up with a blanket, a good book and a warm bowl of comforting soup…..

Growing up, soup was always a winter luxury in India. The bountiful greens and tomatoes during the cooler months accounted for greater affordability of these veggies. We grew up on clear soups. My mom always started with fresh vegetables, used a pressure cooker to cook them, then pureed and strained them.  

When I first came here, I fell in love with chunky stews and soups. We started by ordering them when eating out, but recently I’ve started experimenting with some of my own. The real motive, of course was the children, who fuss about eating their veggies. But I discovered that if I put them in with some beans and pass it off as soup, they’re fine with it!! This is how my Black-eyed pea soup and 15-bean stew became a favorite. Going on, I decided to introduce a couple of new things for them in their bowls. Happy to say, they lapped it all off…

Autumn Bean and Barley Soup

What I used:

1/2 Cup dry navy beans; soaked overnight
1/2 cup mixed lentils (I mixed red lentils and green whole mung beans)
A scant 1/2 cup of regular pearl barley
1/2 Cup chopped squash (I had zucchini, yellow squash and yellow pumpkin)
About 10 baby carrots- diced
1 onion chopped
A fistful of spinach leaves.

1 tomato, chopped
2 Tbsp tomato puree
2 cups V8 vegetable juice

1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup (+ 1/2 cup) water

Seasonings of choice- I seasoned with salt, italian seasoning and crushed black pepper.

Fresh herbs- I had on hand, fresh oregano and lemon thyme.

How I did it:
  1. Put everything in a slow cooker.
  2. Make a bouquet of fresh herbs and toss it in. This way it is easier to fish it out later.
  3. Cook on high for 6 and 1/2 hrs. 
  4. Serve topped with shredded cheese and a bread stick.
My two cents: I have learned to like my slow cooker because (1) I can toss everything in and forget it till dinner time and (2), I can do zero-oil cooking in it. For some reason, food cooked in a slow-cooker is so flavorful, that you don’t miss that extra dash of tadka that we are so used to in Indian-style cooking. 

This time I introduced barley, but was a little nervous. A friend had said that when she cooked with barley, it always had a certain amount of chew to it- which she found annoying. And I was sure that might be a problem with my daughters as well. However, after 6 and 1/ hours in a slow cooker, my barley was cooked to perfection. 

My cooking is fairly intuitive. With this particular soup,  I did have to add another 1/2 cup water after about 4hrs. Despite that, this soup came out to be really chunky. It could definitely accommodate a bit more broth/water.  That is something definitely worth tweaking according to your taste. That being said, My daughters and I had our first taste of barley….and we liked it!! 

Linked to Kids Delight- Nuts and Legumes Event , Jacqueline’s No Croutons required and to MLLA #76