Cheese is expensive. Especially good cheese. I live in an area ripe with artisan cheese makers and a long dairy history. Check out this cheese map of Vermont. The raw milk, small herds and the hands on approach shows in quality and price. We have a cheese maker who only uses milk from the afternoon for one of his products. That's working the details.
What's all this got to do with soup? Soup is cheap. Use your Aga properly and it doesn't even take much attention. This batch of soup allows me to buy a proper cheese. One made from 100 % Gurnseys, turned and washed over 50 times. Caramel in color and a creamy texture perfect for melting over a baguette. I digress. Soup is the topic of conversation. Sweet affordable onions and tender but firm barley. Doesn't get much cheaper than that.
Let's see how this went down in the Aga Kitchen. Give yourself four hours but very little actual working time. This will feed four comfortably.
Onion & Barley Soup
Gather up these tools and ingredients. Remember there are no rules in soup. This is a pretty good starting point. The way I draw out the juice from the onions and use it to cook the barley is pretty slick and you should do that.
- your favorite heavy bottomed soup pot with lid, 3 qts or bigger
- 4 cups of medium diced onion, about 3 softball size onions
- 2 celery stalks peeled and small dice
- 1 herb bouquet (a few sprigs each of parsley, thyme, sage etc) tied in cheesecloth*
- 1 carrot small dice
- 1/2 cup barley rinsed
- 2 qt stock, chicken, beef or veg
- a knob of butter
- 1/4 cup sherry or madeira
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1 Tablespoon sherry vinegar* or red wine vinegar
*I know this is supposed to be some simple soup recipe and here I am using sherry vinegar and cheesecloth. You can just wrap up your herbs tight with string or tie them in a coffee filter. As for the vinegar, substitute or man up and buy some good smoky sherry vinegar
Melt the knob of butter with equal part water in your Simmer Oven while you dice your onions, vegetables and make your herb bouquet
Add the onions, vegetables and herbs to the butter/water mixture. Sprinkle with salt. Lid on and into Baking Oven for 15 minutes. Be sure to scrape down the sides so nothing sticks and dries out.
Timer goes beep and into Simmer Oven for 2 hours. Check after a hour and give a nice stir remembering to scrape down the sides. It's important so I repeat it. It's important so I repeat it.
Timer goes beep after the two hours and we add the barley. There should be a nice little collection of sweet onion juice in the bottom of the pan. The barley will soak all that up. Cook for additional 45 minutes.
Put the pot on the Simmer Plate and add the alcohol and vinegar. Let it cook for a minute then add the stock and honey. Into the Roasting Oven so everything comes to nice simmer, taste, adjust and serve
Once you get everything up to temperature (above 140 F) the soup is done. You can do this in any oven depending on how long before you want to eat the soup. The soup will taste better the next day, fact not old wives' tale. The heating and the cooling allows the flavors to interchange with one another.
When the soup is good life is good.....and the soup is good.