Recipe: Spring Celery & Barley Soup

Spring is here. This morning, I woke to a full sun blaring outside my window, rising an hour earlier to melt last night’s chilly frost and to remind me that this too shall pass. The season changing once again to usher in something new. And a breath of hope and possibility as the light grows stronger and the days longer. Sunday brings the Spring Equinox.

What a tremendous time we are living in right now. I imagine if you are anything like me, you’ve been watching the world with trepidation, awe and terror lately. Yet, I keep remembering that each generation is given its challenges to navigate and to grow within. So here we are.

I took the month of February to be in silence, to reflect on what feels meaningful and salient in these times. I often find myself feeling so out of control amidst the swirl of war, pandemics, economic and environmental turmoil, and other such immensely challenging and enormous topics. I remember a pivotal point in my early twenties, when I decided I didn’t want a life in politics or policy-shaping (my degree was concentrated in International Development), and instead I wanted to focus on local engagement and individual interactions. But now, with such forward-facing global crises it’s difficult at times to feel the work you do makes a difference when not engaged on a larger level. I’m certain, no matter your profession, you’re coming up against these same reflections in this hyper-connected world we live in now. We all feel the collective suffering. So I turn to my haven in the kitchen, to cooking and feeding my people. Food is still the one place I find respite, solitude and gratitude for the simple pleasures I get to enjoy. 
This soup is nothing short of comfort, wholesome and simple. Barley is the perfect springtime grain for lightening up the heavy qualities of Kapha dosha. It is light, astringent and dry. While barley is considered pathya (suitable for regular consumption), it’s especially good for a spring diet and for balancing Kapha. Read more about the qualities and uses of barley from an Ayurvedic perspective here. I’ve included lots of pungent, bitter and astringent herbs in this soup. With all the leek, thyme, fennel, dill and parsley, it has a very Italian savory soup vibe. Buon appetito!

SPRING CELERY & BARLEY SOUP

2 tbsp olive oil or ghee
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 small leek, ends trimmed, halved & cut into thin slices
½ cup hulled barley, soaked for 1 hour or up to 10 hours
6 stalks celery
6 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups pure water
½ tsp quality mineral salt
¼ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
¼ cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Add the barley to a medium-sized mixing bowl, cover with water and soak for an hour or more. Drain and rinse well. Set aside. Prep the leeks and fresh herbs. 

In a medium pot, heat the oil on medium heat and add the fennel seeds. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Stir in the leeks. Cook for another 5 minutes until translucent and soft. Stir in the whole sprigs of thyme. Then, add the barley and celery. Stir to coat in the oil and herbs. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the barley’s edges are lighter and translucent. Add 4 cups of quality vegetable stock and 2 more cups of water. Season with half the salt and pepper amount. Bring to a boil on high heat and cook for 5 minutes uncovered, releasing any foam as the grain cooks. 

Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 30-35 minutes. If the water level looks low, add another cup of stock or water to the mix. Once the grains are tender, remove the leftover woody stalks from the thyme sprigs and discard. Taste and add the remaining salt and pepper. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. Finish by mixing in the dill and parsley. Adjust seasonings as desired from there. Serve hot.

 

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Yield: 2-4 servings 

 

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