I more often make soup to use up what’s left in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer than to test a new recipe. Recently, however, I was trying to tidy up some papers when I found a scribbled recipe for a bean and barley soup stuck between the last page and the back cover of a spiral notebook. There weren’t any notes with this recipe, and I had no memory of making it or where it came from, but the ingredient list was promising, and – bonus! - tweaking it just a bit would allow me to use up what was in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer after all.
This soup is delicious and hearty. The chickpeas and barley give it heft, the fennel gives it a unique flavor that remains subtle and not overwhelming, and the tomatoes give it some zip and tang. I used fire roasted diced tomatoes, but you could make great soup with plain diced tomatoes.
I kept the flavorful liquid leftover from cooking the chickpeas, and used it for the majority of the liquid in the soup. I only had about 4 cups, so I added 2 cups of chicken broth, which was serving no other purpose languishing in the refrigerator, to make up the volume. You could use whatever you like for your soup liquid. A lighter flavored broth will allow the flavor of the fennel (enhanced a bit by some basil in the mix) to shine through, but if you had a stronger flavored broth like beef or mushroom stock on hand, those might be pretty darn good with the beans and barley as well.
You could also use different beans in this recipe. I think the original called for white beans, but I can’t be sure because all I scribbled on my notebook paper is “beans”. A softer bean would probably cook down more than the somewhat firm chickpeas, making a thicker soup. There are a lot of ways to go with this if you recognize it as a simple vegetable soup and add what you like. Or what you happen to have in your pantry, refrigerator, or freezer.
Chickpea and Barley Soup with Fennel and Tomatoes
You can use other beans, such as white beans or lentils, in place of the chickpeas if desired.
You can use any broth or bean cooking liquid for this soup. I used a combination of the chickpea cooking liquid and chicken broth.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
5 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
1 ½ cup cooked chickpeas
6 cups broth or bean cooking liquid
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 15-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 cup cooked pearled barley
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and fennel are softened and translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
2. Add the beans, broth, black pepper and basil. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook at a low boil for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
3. Stir in the tomatoes and barley. Cook at a low boil, uncovered for 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired.
Makes 6-8 servings