Persian Lamb and Barley Soup with Yoghurt Flatbreads

Lamb and barley soupI always find nourishing comfort in soup. If it’s a soft smooth blended soup or a clear broth, it does not matter I am deeply in love with soup. This Persian-inspired soup is a broth of slow cooked lamb with chickpeas, pearl barley and onion. Simple flavours that remind me of soups my mother used to make for me as a child.

These yoghurt flatbreads have become a regular fall back at my place. Mainly due to the fact that I always have the ingredients to hand and they are a cinch to make. It’s from one of my favourite sources of inspiring food that works, Ottolenghi. He has shared the recipe for us here. I often tweak the herbs to suit what I’m making. The recipe calls for fresh coriander but here I have used a pinch of dried mint instead. On other occasions I have substituted fennel seeds, fresh parsley or crush cumin seeds.

lamb and barley soup

Persian Lamb and Barley Soup

1 big tablespoon clarified butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 lamb shank

1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

60g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained

a pinch of saffron threads

50g pearl barley

1 big handful of chopped parsley

juice 1/2 lemon

1 teaspoon dried mint

1 tablespoon olive oil

Heat a saucepan over medium heat and warm clarified butter. Add onions and soften. Add garlic and turmeric, add lamb shank to brown on all sides. Pour in a litre of boiling water and lower to a gentle simmer. Cover with lid askew and simmer gently for 90 minutes. Add chickpeas and saffron then continue cooking for another hour. Then add pearl barley and cook for 30 minutes. Lamb should be falling off the bone by this stage. Remove the meat from the bone and discard the bone. Add salt and pepper to taste, parsley and lemon juice. Combine mint and olive oil. Serve hot with greek yoghurt, mint oil, crisp fried onion and yoghurt flatbreads.

Serves 2.

Roast Fennel and Garlic Soup with seeded olive oil crackers

As you all know I love soup! It’s amazing what can be done with so few ingredients, even the crackers are easy to make.
It’s the second time I’ve made this type of this crisp bread and I’m telling you it’s so easy that I really should make them more often. They are expensive to buy but easy to make with little ingredients. I think it’s just the mental hurdle of what they look like that you have to get over, you can make them!

If you don’t have time to make the crackers, make some quick croutons or even just toasted sourdough. The soup needs the contrast in texture and flavour.

You can get the recipe here on the Gourmet Traveller website.

Trick and Tips

The soup recipe called for crème fraîche to be added at the end. I had sour cream and greek yoghurt in the fridge so I used a combination of the two. I think it would have benefited from the sweetness of the crème fraîche, but if you don’t have any use cream, pouring or thickened would be fine.

Smokey Hock and Green Pea soup

I’m lamenting the end of winter. The end of warm comfort food and soup. As soon as the leaves start to fall in Autumn and the days shorten to cool evenings, I’ve got the big soup pot out. It’s the ease of a mid week meal, a warm bowl in hand while watching an old movie on the box. The portability of a decent work lunch is a welcome relief from the work canteen.

We didn’t eat pork when I was growing up. My mother is not keen on it. Fortunately I rebelled. I have seen her side glances when my brother and I talk about some nice juicy pork belly and that I just can’t resist it.
As a consequence I didn’t grow up on ham and pea soup and this is, infact, the first time I’ve made it. I don’t know why I thought it was complicated, the process of finding a hock etc etc. It was, actually, ridiculously simple.

This was inspired by recipes from Tom Norrington-Davies and Stephanie Alexander.

There are many different ways to make this soup but I found this method to be just as simple and was satisfying to tend to on a Sunday afternoon.

Serves 4-6.

Smokey Hock and Green Pea Soup 


1 smoked ham hock (750g-1kg)

2 litres of water

3 carrots

1 brown onion, unpeeled, cut in half.

2 sticks of celery

3 cloves

1 clove of garlic, unpeeled

500g green split peas


Put the hock in a large saucepan with the water, 2 whole carrots, brown onion, 1 celery stick, 3 cloves and the garlic clove (lightly crushed with the side of a knife). Bring to a simmer for about 3 hours or until the ham is cooked and falling away from the bone. Skim the surface over the cooking time to remove any scum that collects on top.

Remove the hock and set aside to cool a bit. Meanwhile remove the vegetables and discard. Strain the liquid and return to a clean saucepan. Bring the liquid to the boil, add the green peas and keep on a rolling simmer for about an hour or until the peas start to fall apart and it looks like mushy peas.

Strip off the skin and discard. Remove the ham from the bone and add it back to the soup. No need to add salt as the ham provides that but feel free to add black pepper.

I was surprised how good it tasted at this stage and the following step is purely optional, but I had already prepared the vegetables.

Finely dice 1 stick of celery and 1 carrot, saute in a medium hot pan with some olive oil. Once just softening, add to soup.

I’m definitely adding this to my winter soup list!

A trip to Ronda and a simple Gazpacho

Ronda is a stunning village. Perched high in the Andalucian mountains, Southern Spain, it has a proud bullfighting history. The story is that it is here, legendary bullfighter, Pedro Romero, founded the style of bullfighting where the matadore stands on the ground to face the bull, and not on horseback, as it had been.

I travelled there from Gibraltar on the train line that was built by British garrison officers stationed there in the 1890s who wanted to escape the busy port of Gibraltar. The train wasn’t fast by any means, and from memory it took over 2 hrs to get to Ronda, but the scenery it passes is so stunning it’s worth it. 

A deep gorge divides the old city from the new. You could stand on the Puente Nuevo bridge, which joins the two, for hours taking in the breathtaking view and trying to imaging life in times gone by. Due to the cliffs and gorges the city was one of the last Moorish cities to fall during the Reconquest of Spain by the Catholics.

During one of Jamie Oliver’s trips around Europe he visited Ronda too. He chose to make their gazpacho, pimping it up by grilling the onion for more flavour and adding almonds and orange. I’m sure it tasted great but I’m not sure the Andalucians would approve.

There are many different recipes for Gazpacho and it’s another one of those dishes everyone thinks their version is the correct one. Mine is a simple gazpacho, made from simple ingredients.

Always only made and eaten in the heat of summer when tomatoes are in season and full of flavour. This soup is served cool as a refreshing start to any meal.


A Simple Gazpacho

1 kg ripe red tomatoes, the best flavour you can find, quartered

1 medium cucumber, roughly chopped

1 small red spanish onion, roughly chopped

1 red capsicum, seeded and quartered

100g stale bread

1 garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste



Soak bread in water (about 250-300mls) enough to just cover the bread. Leave to soak for 5-10 minutes until bread has soaked up water.

Place onion, capsicum and garlic in large food processor and pulse until fine. (need 1.5-2L capacity processor)

Then add cucumber and tomatoes and process until smooth. Add soaked bread including residual water, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.

This is a rustic gazpacho and if you prefer it smoother you can rub it through a fine sieve.

Serve cool in a glass with finely chopped red capsicum and cucumber on the side. Depending on your tomatoes this makes 1.5-2L of gazpacho. Easily enough for 10-12 people as an amuse bouche or starter.



Sweetcorn Soup with Red Peppers and Chipotle

Yes, it is summer, but it’s England and it’s raining. A little chill in the night air and you start to feel like something warm and comforting. When I saw this soup in Favourite Recipes from Books 1,2&3, Books for Cooks, I knew it would do the trick.

For the Soup:

30g butter

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic, cloves, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 leek, white part only, chopped

1 litre of hot water or stock

6 cobs of corn, kernels stripped with a sharp knife

1 tbsp lemon juice

4 tbsp double cream

salt and black pepper

For the puree:

2 red peppers, quartered and seeded

1 small garlic clove, crushed

chipolte in adobo

tabasco (optional)

To make the puree:

Put the peppers under a hot grill until charred and blistered all over. place the in a bowl and cover with cling film, leave for 10mins. Put the garlic in the food processor and whiz to chop, then peel the skins off the peppers and add to processor, whiz to a fine puree. Add the chipolte in adobo to taste (I like 2 parts red pepper puree : 1 part chipolte). You can whiz this with some of the soup stock in the processor if you like a smoother paste. Add a few drops of tabasco ( I forgot but it was certainly not lacking in flavour)

For the Soup:

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over gentle heat, add the onion, carrot, leek, garlic and cook with the lid on until softened, about 15 mins. Add the stock or water and raise to medium heat until vegetables are completely done and carrots are soft, about 10 mins.

Add the corn kernels, raise the heat and once it is at a rolling boil turn the heat off immediately. Leave covered for a few minutes before blending the soup  (a hand blender is sufficent but a soup blender/processor if you prefer). Blend for at least 3 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste, lemon juice (about juice of half a lemon), and cream. Serve hot with red pepper and chipolte puree on top.

Serves 4.

Adapted from Favourite Recipes from Books 1,2&3, Books for Cooks