[RECIPE] Barley soup

You can use ancient grains like barley in a variety of dishes, including soups, stews and salads as an accompaniment to or replacement for rice.

Barley is highly nutritious and among the most widely consumed ancient grains in the modern Westernised diet. It also boasts one of the highest fibre contents among all whole grains.


  • 100g barley
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 onion, 1 diced
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped to serve
  • 100g gherkins, grated
  • 200ml gherkin brine from the jar
  • 20g parsley stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1½ liters cold water

Barley is a natural source of selenium, iron and thiamine (vitamin B1), and is also high in beta glucans, a type of soluble fibre that dissolves easily in water and forms a gel-like substance in your gut to aid digestion.


  1. Pour water into a large saucepan. Add ½ the onions and bayleaf and bring to the boil.
  2. Reduce heat and add barley until cooked – usually 15 minutes.
  3. In a frying pan, sweat the remaining onions by adding olive oil and cooking over medium heat for 15 minutes. Add the parsley stalks and carrots and continue to cook until all ingredients soften.
  4. Transfer frying pan contents to the saucepan. Add in gherkins and brine until preferred taste is achieved. Add salt.
  5. Remove from heat. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve with your favourite bread.

Bonus tip: Barley takes longer to cook (about 60 minutes) than most ancient grains, but it freezes well, which makes it an ideal batch-and-freeze meal prep option.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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