An old man from Ethiopia used to eat with us regularly at our cafe in Ballard. He had gorgeous teeth which he attributed to the African habit of using chew sticks; all people, he told me, walk around with a sticks in their mouths which they manipulate around their teeth and gums as they go, making very healthy teeth and gums. Aklag tried to plant a bush in Seattle but it died. He was a widower and came to live with his son who worked at Microsoft and the son’s wife. Being an Ethiopian man he didn’t cook, and without a wife he had to come here to live and have the daughter-in-law cook for him! (I exchanged some words with him on that topic, as you might imagine.) Aklag told me he was a shepherd when he was a boy, though he also made it known he had a university education and worked in the city as a bureaucrat; he also told me his countrymen feed barley to the very best race horses and to pregnant women because it’s the finest of all grains. Thus, when he came for lunch and I offered Scotch broth with lamb, barley, and vegetables, he thought he’d found heaven right there on Market Street, and bought another couple to-go portions so he could show his daughter-in-law what he was eating!
This is all by way of saying Anna accidentally ordered too much hulled barley (as opposed to pearled barley, which is polished) and wants me to offer recipes to help sell the excess! Fall is here and winter’s on its way, so hearty soups are what we like now.
SCOTCH BROTH, “quick” version*
1. Brown a pound of lamb stew meat* slowly in butter. Then toss in a coarsely chopped onion, one rib of celery, chopped, and a leek, cut lengthwise and washed to get the grit out, then chopped; stir to gently cook for a few minutes. Add a quart or so of broth, salt and a few whole peppercorns, and herbs such as thyme, bay, and rosemary if you have them. Add a dash of vinegar. Simmer for an hour and a quarter.
2. Meanwhile, cook a cup of barley separately in two cups of water and set aside to add at the end. (Traditionally the barley’s cooked in the broth, but I find it soaks it all up and the result is mush–you might like that, but I like some broth to sip. Hulled barley will take longer to cook than pearled barley.)
3. Add a chopped carrots (and a rutabaga or turnip if you like) and cook 10 minutes more.
4. Add some large dice firm-fleshed potatoes (and a little cabbage is o.k.) and cook 20 minutes more.
5. Put in as much of the cooked barley as you like and correct the seasoning.
6. A generous sprinkle of parsley is nice as a garnish, or even cilantro or basil.
* I prefer to make this soup starting with some bony pieces of meat, like neck bones or shanks because bones make a good broth. If you use the bony parts, make a stock with a couple packages of meaty bony things; simmer 2 hours (or a bit longer until the meat falls from the bones) w/ the first vegetables, a little vinegar, salt, pepper. After a while, add the carrots (step 3). When the meat falls from the bones, remove meaty pieces, cut away bones and cartilage, then return the meat to the soup. Proceed with steps 4, 5, 6. The bones and connective tissue can be simmered longer in another pot to make more broth which you can add at the end as needed.
* If you have leftover roast lamb with some tasty gravy, you can save a lot of effort by using that for the basis of our soup!
BEEF & BARLEY SOUP
Put two or three lumps of meaty short ribs (one package about 1 1/2 lb.) on the bottom of your soup pot with a little oil or butter.
Add some chopped garlic, chopped onions, chopped leeks, and a half cup of hulled barley. Add a dash of vinegar and salt and pepper–whole peppercorns are nice.
Add water to cover–or broth if you have any–and simmer 2 1/2 – 3 hours. In the last hour you can add chopped carrot and cubed firm fleshed potatoes if you like, and a glop of tomato sauce, paste, or fresh tomatoes.
When it’s almost time to eat, remove the meat from the bones, cut it in bites, and return it to the soup.
Serve with crusty bread–see “no-knead bread” that I posted on our website a long time ago. (You have to plan ahead and start the bread at least half a day before you want it.)