This soup fills the house with aromas that, to me, simply smell of home cooking.

Winter is perfect soup weather. I love the action of chopping all of the ingredients and setting the pot on the stove to bubble away.

Leave out the pancetta if you’re vegetarian, vegan or just prefer it without; the porcini will give you a lovely depth of flavour anyway. This soup is great to make in advance – I just add the spinach as I’m reheating the soup so that it stays nice and green.



3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
sea salt
1 potato, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
4 sage leaves
60 g pancetta, halved
120 g pearl barley
10 g dried porcini, soaked in 100 ml warm water for 15 minutes
1.5 litres vegetable or chicken stock
2 fresh bay leaves
150 g English or baby spinach leaves, tough stems removed and leaves roughly torn
crusty bread, to serve


Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over a low heat. Gently fry the onion, celery and carrot with a pinch of salt for about 10–15 minutes until soft and beginning to colour. Add the potato, garlic and sage leaves and cook for a few more minutes until the garlic is fragrant and everything has mingled together nicely. Now add the pancetta, barley and the porcini and soaking liquid. Pour in the stock and pop in the bay leaves.

Allow to simmer for 30–35 minutes until the soup has thickened and the pearl barley is very tender.

Remove the pancetta and cut into lardons. Return to the pan along with the spinach and continue to simmer for about 2 minutes until the spinach has wilted. Season to taste.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with an extra drizzle of olive oil and some crusty bread.

Recipe from A Year of Simple Family Food by Julia Busuttil Nishimura (published by Plum)


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