Starving. Cold. Soup was the answer, but it had to be in a hurry. So, I opened my freezer and 20 minutes later was sitting down to a hot bowl of Sausage Barley soup — from scratch.
My friends and family shake their heads at me in the fall, when most of my spare time is spent either in the garden, or in the kitchen. I chop and blanch and freeze, and can. It is hard work, but I prefer to think of it as front-end-load work. Through the year, I package meat from the local butcher as individual servings, and cook large quantities of grains to freeze.
But my reward comes on days like today. I truly believe in eating food that is organically grown, from as close to home as possible, and with minimal processing. I try to never eat anything, and I mean ANYTHING that contains ingredients I can’t pronounce. With all my preparation, I can do that even when I need food in a hurry.
Most of the ingredients for this soup came straight from the freezer into the pot. I started with fresh chopped garlic and onion and about half of a frozen Italian sausage. I also added frozen celery, slow-roasted tomatoes, red pepper and a half pint of my canned tomatoes. I broke about half a cup of home-made beef stock from the one cup block, and did the same for a quarter cup of cooked pot barley I froze a few weeks ago. Some dried basil, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper and a few hot pepper flakes.
Note: Pot barley is a more complete grain than pearled barley, and tastes better with a fabulous chewy texture, but it takes a long time to cook. In my world, that is a perfect candidate to cook in a large batch in the slow-cooker, and freeze for quick use.
I let the soup fast-simmer for a little more than ten minutes, while I did a few more things in the kitchen, including warming a pita to complete my lunch. I stirred in a teaspoon of nutritional yeast at the table (more about this wonderful secret ingredient in a later post), which has a tendency to thicken the broth and adds to the depth of flavour, making up for the short cooking time. I also slipped out to snip off the first of my 2012 harvest, garlic chives.
When you love good food, and care about what you put into your body, having the right ingredients at hand is the key to success. I love the freedom I have with my food. I could have replaced the sausage with shrimp if I had been in a seafood mood. Or, I could have used plenty of mushrooms and left out the tomatoes, working toward a more creamy soup if that had been my desire. Nobody can have enough processed food in their pantry to accomplish that total freedom, and my way is cheaper, healthier and … I think more fun.