What’s cooking today: Chunky vegetable & barley soup

What’s cooking today: Chunky vegetable & barley soup
Tony Jackman’s chunky vegetable and barley soup, served in bowls by Mervyn Gers Ceramics. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Almost every soup is blended today but a substantial broth packed with tiny chunks of all sorts of vegetables has an appeal that takes us back to our childhood.

For a chunky soup such as this one, you don’t have to follow the recipe slavishly and go out and find every last vegetable in the ingredients list for it. This is about raiding the vegetable crisper or rack, or both, and seeing what you have.

I happened to have a variety of vegetables, which is what prompted me to make a hearty vegetable soup. I had plenty of leeks, turnips, carrots, fresh tomatoes, celery, red and white onions, broccoli and, unusually, a bunch of fennel (the fronds and stems, not the bulb). With one eye on those and the other on the packet of pearled barley in the cupboard, I concocted this recipe. Substitute whatever you have for anything you don’t…


3 Tbsp butter

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 white onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped 

4 carrots, peeled and diced

2 turnips, peeled and diced

3 celery stalks including young, fresh green leaves

1 cup broccoli, chopped

3 leeks, rinsed and chopped

2 Tbsp fennel fronds, chopped finely

3 large tomatoes, diced

1 large potato, peeled and grated

1 cup pearled barley, rinsed

A handful of chopped parsley

5 or 6 thyme sprigs

1 x 400 g can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice

1.5 litres vegetable stock

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp celery salt

½ tsp cayenne pepper

A couple of gratings of nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional)

2 Tbsp cornflour dissolved in water or milk


Use a large, heavy soup pot such as a Dutch oven, and make sure any vegetables that might be gritty are well rinsed and drained.

Peel and chop all the vegetables with a focus on small dice, but grate the potato, which serves as a thickener (along with cornflour to be added later).

Melt the butter and add the chopped onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and turnips. Cook on a low heat, with plenty of stirring, for 15 to 20 minutes (because it’s a large quantity of vegetables) until everything is softened and flavours are developing nicely. Add the leeks, broccoli, fennel and grated potato as well as the thyme and chopped fresh tomatoes. Bring the pot to a simmer and let it cook for 10 minutes.

Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock and parsley and season with salt and black pepper to taste (be generous with the salt, it can take it), celery salt, onion powder, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Cook for 5 minutes, then taste and decide whether it needs any more of the aforementioned spices (perhaps not the nutmeg though). I also stirred in a little balsamic vinegar to provide some acidity; do so if you like.

Rinse the barley under running water in a colander or large sieve, drain, and stir it into the soup.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a low simmer, put the lid on the pot and let it cook for about 45 minutes. Stir now and then as it is likely to catch.

Mix the cornflour with water or milk and stir it in, returning the pot to a simmer, for another 10 minutes or so. Serve with crusty bread. DM/TGIFood

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Champion 2021. His book, foodSTUFF, is available in the DM Shop. Buy it here

Mervyn Gers Ceramics supplies dinnerware for the styling of some TGIFood shoots. For more information, click here.

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks. Share your versions of his recipes with him on Instagram and he’ll see them and respond.

SUBSCRIBE to TGIFood here. Also visit the TGIFood platform, a repository of all of our food writing.


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