A Lamb Barley Turnip soup is a good way to get turnip-haters to eat their share. Turnips are a winter specialty and are said to provide warmth from the season’s chill. That said, I’m sure most home cooks will agree that it is far from being a popular vegetable. A turnip soup that packs in the fibre and goodness of pearl barley and the savouriness of meat will (in my opinion) find many takers.
What is pearl barley?
This Lamb Barley Turnip soup uses pearl barley. It is whole grain barley that has been hulled (its outer husk is removed) and usually semi polished to retain some of its bran. This helps it cook faster. Pearl barley is fibre-dense, lower in calories than rice, and rich in calcium, potassium and iron. And it is inexpensive. Barley works to make the soup filling and nutritious. I also love the little bite and texture of these pearls.
A little meat and lots of vegetables
The title Lamb Barley Turnip Soup puts lamb first, but actually this soup has only 100 g of meat (once the bones are removed) and about 3 medium-sized turnips. A little meat goes a long way. Its job is to impart that meaty flavour which makes the backs of our mouths water. That undefinable taste, which to me is best defined by soy sauce, or cheese or MSG, is a flavour loved by all. It makes us go back for that next bite as it teases the juices out in our minds as much as in our palates. I pressure cooked the barley along with a few pieces of lamb – on – the – bone, then pulled out the pieces, deboned and chopped the meat.
I cut the turnips into hearty chunks and cooked them with onions that had been braised into a sweet, caramelised tangle. Turnips can come on strong when eaten raw. But here, they took on the rich, dark sugar of the onions while softening and becoming sweet themselves. Who wouldn’t love turnips prepared this way? Also, the wonderful thing about pearl barley is that its spongy-soft exterior eagerly soaks up the surrounding flavour. So once the vegetables were semi cooked, I added the barley along with the little meaty cooking water, and simmered it till the turnips were done.
When done, my Lamb Barley Turnip Soup was hearty with a rounded, complete flavour – salty, sweet with a smidge of that rooted-in-the-soil pepperiness of the turnip. I ate it on one of the coldest nights this January, snuggled in my quilt on the couch, watching a movie. Precious, small pleasures that make life beautiful.
Lamb Barley Turnip Soup
- 100 g pearl barley, washed thoroughly, soaked for 1 hour
- 3 medium turnips, cleaned and quartered
- 200 g lamb on the bone (use enough to yield approximately 100 g of meat)
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 plump cloves of garlic
- 1 tej patta or dried, Indian bay leaf
- 4-5 black peppercorns
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp cinnamon powder
- ¼ tsp dried thyme
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 300 ml water
- salt, as needed
- Place the soaked barley with the water, lamb, peppercorns and bay leaf in the pressure cooker and cook for 20 mins on slow after 1 whistle.
- Once the pressure cooker has cooled, remove the lamb pieces, debone and shred the meat. Set aside. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
- Warm the olive oil in a deep pan or pot and add the onions. Cook on low heat till they're caramelised and soft. Add the garlic and cook for another 20 seconds.
- Now drop in the turnips, paprika, thyme and a little water from the cooked barley, cover and cook till they're almost done. You may need to add a little water in between to prevent burning.
- Then add the cinnamon powder, Worcestershire and soy sauces followed by the barley, lamb and any stock it may have. Mix well and add a little more water and salt if needed. Bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 minutes more and serve hot.