fava bean and barley soup
While I am very familiar with fresh fava beans (fave fresche), and prepare them often when they are in season, I had never had the chance to meet the dried kind up close and personal.
When I saw dried fava beans at the farmers' market, I knew the time had come for me to experiment with them. Melanie and Kevin, the young couple behind Shakefork Community Farm (the grain CSA of which I am a shareholder) had the fava beans for sale at their booth. Melanie mentioned that she had prepared a soup with fava beans and their hulless barley (orzo nudo, literally, naked barley), so I went home with a suggestion that sounded very appealing.
Since I learned from Melanie and Kevin to toast grains before cooking them, I have established a routine to cook barley: I rinse half a cup of barley, then put it in a skillet and warm up over medium heat, shaking the skillet to prevent the barley from getting scorched. After a short while, the popping starts. I keep shaking the skillet until the popping subsides (not all the groats will pop). I let the barley cool briefly then put it in a saucepan with 1.5 cups of water, bring to a boil and cook, covered, until tender (42-45 minutes). I prepare barley this way independently of having a recipe in mind for using it, since even simply cooked as described, it makes a nice side dish or breakfast cereal.
I soaked one cup of dried fava beans in plenty of water overnight (16 hours or so), then drained and removed the skin. (A longer soaking may be needed, depending on the beans, so you may want to allocate 24 hours to this step.) I have seen recipes that use whole fava beans, but I don't like the skin and so I take the extra step of removing it. This is usually easy and I accomplish it by twisting each bean to break the skin. Sometimes I use my thumbnail to break the skin and then twist.
Here is the list of the ingredients I used for the soup:
- half a cup of hulless barley, rinsed, toasted, cooked in 1.5 cups of water until tender and drained (see above for details)
- one cup of fava beans, soaked overnight or longer, as needed, skin removed (ditto)
- half of a smallish onion and one small shallot, finely chopped
- olive oil
- two cloves of garlic (due spicchi d'aglio), minced
- a cup of my homemade chicken stock
- a cup of water plus more as needed
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- two tablespoons of fresh parsley (prezzemolo), finely chopped (from my herb garden)
- a teaspoon of fresh dill (aneto), finely chopped (ditto)
And here it the procedure I used to prepare the soup:
- Warm up a bit of olive oil in a saucepan and then add onion, shallot and garlic
- Cook for a few minutes, then add fava beans, stock and water
- Bring to a boil and cook, covered, for half an hour
- Stir and start mashing the fava beans with a wooden spoon
- Continue cooking, adding hot water if needed. At regular intervals, stir and mash fava beans.
- Within 10 minutes, the fava beans should be cooked and the mashing will have created a purée with the pieces of fava beans providing some texture
- Add barley and continue cooking for 5 minutes
- Add salt and pepper, to taste
- Add parsley and dill (but feel free to omit the latter, if you are not a dill lover or don't have fresh dill available)
- Stir, let sit for a minute or two, then serve
I made a rather dense soup, which became denser after spending a night in the fridge. Use water as needed to dilute the soup to your taste. The small portion in the photo at the top is from the leftover soup: I added to it some water while warming it up.
I liked the soup (it was actually the favorite soup of one of our guests). I will make it again. It feels quite appropriate for winter dinners.
A bit more about barley before I conclude.
Hulless (or hull-less) barley is a type of barley in which the tough inedible outer hull adheres losely to the kernel, so that when this barley is harvested, the outer hull usually falls off. Because hulless barley requires minimal cleaning, most of the brand and endosperm is left intact and the germ is present.
Hulled barley is barley that has been minimally processed to remove only the tough inedible outer hull.
Either type of barley is whole grain (integrale) and therefore a healthy choice.
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