This old-fashioned recipe for Scottish barley kale broth is so simple and easy, yet packed with wholesome savoury fresh flavours.
This tasty soup is perfect for light meals, or as a starter to stimulate the appetite, or even as a quick nourishing low-calorie and low-fat snack.
A bowl of barley kale broth is especially ideal for those days when your feeling a little under-the-weather. The barley can be easily replaced with rice for a gluten-free broth.
Inexpensive simple soups that are packed with plant-based nourishment are the epitome of traditional cozy home-cooking. Various versions of this humble barley kale soup has been nourishing Scots for centuries.
Quick origins of barley in Scotland
Barley has a long and storied history in Scotland, where it has been cultivated for thousands of years.
The ancient Picts, who inhabited Scotland before the arrival of the Romans, were known to have grown barley and used it to make beer.
In the Middle Ages, barley was an important crop for both food and drink, and was used to make bread, bannocks, porridge, and ale. By the 18th century, barley had become the most important crop in Scotland, and was used to make whisky, which has become an iconic Scottish product.
Today, Scotland remains a major producer of barley, and is home to many famous whisky distilleries that use the grain in their products. Barley continues to be an important part of Scotland's cultural and food heritage.
Barley was and still is a delicious addition to tasty soups and stews, but surprisingly barley has also been used as a dessert. With one example being this delicious old-fashioned Scottish Sweet Barley Pudding, which is similar to the more familiar family favourite Rice Pudding.
Quick origins of kale in Scotland
Kale has been grown in Scotland for centuries. The hardy vegetable was well-suited to the Scottish climate and soil conditions, and was a staple crop for many farmers in rural areas. In fact, kale was so important to the Scottish diet that it was often referred to as "Scotch kale" in old cookbooks.
In the past, kale was typically boiled or stewed and served as a side dish with meat, fish, or porridge. It was also used in a popular Scottish dish known as "kale brose," which was a simple oat porridge or soup made from kale and oatmeal.
[A recipe for kale brose will soon be added to our family recipe blog, so do look out for it, as its wonderfully budget-friendly while being packed with plant-powered Scottish goodness and tastiness!]
During the 18th and 19th centuries, kale became even more important to the Scottish diet as a result of the Highland Clearances, which forced many rural residents off their land and into urban areas. Kale was a hardy and inexpensive vegetable that could be grown in small plots of land, making it a valuable source of nutrition for those who were struggling to make ends meet.
Kale is perfect and at home in the soup pot!
Here on the Scottish island, we often experiences 4 seasons in one day and one of my daughters best home-grown crops last year was kale, which survived lots of summer torrential rain and gale force winds!
I love that the kale flavour can often taste like seaweed, and when cooked briefly within soups, broths, or stews it can enrich the dish with deliciously fresh, nourishing seaside flavours. My family especially love a steaming hot bowl of this barley kale broth as a pick-me-up, to help get over whatever virus or bug is currently doing the rounds.
Besides, a humble bowl of barley kale broth is just traditional Scottish home-cooking at its best and maintains our connection to our ancestors. And best of all this tasty soup is budget-friendly and provides lots of valuable plant-based nutrition.
How to prepare Scottish barley kale broth
This tasty traditional Scottish soup is really easy to prepare. Its just a case of cooking the barley in a savoury stock for 30 minutes, before adding the fresh kale and leeks and cooking the veggies for a quick extra ten minutes. Delicious wholesome vegan food doesn't have to be a faff to cook!
First add the barley, bay leaf, marmite [vegemite/yeast extract] and hot vegetable stock/broth to a soup pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
[If your not keen on marmite it can be replaced with miso paste, as this will still contribute a nice savoury flavour.]
Add the leeks and kale and cook for 10 minutes.
Season with salt, plenty of black pepper, and fresh parsley to taste.
Barley kale soup is perfect paired up with your favourite bread or crackers, such as our delicious easy Irish wheaten [soda] bread or this slow cooker cornbread. Or go for a tasty just-out-of-the-oven home-baked vegan buttermilk scone or vegan cheese scone.
Storing leftover soup
Store leftover barley and kale broth within the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Or freeze for 3-4 months.
Reheating leftover soup
To reheat leftover soup, add the soup to a saucepan and bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes until piping hot. Before reheating, add a little extra veggie stock if necessary as the barley will likely continue to soak up the broth as it sits.
Pearl barley is used for this recipe as it cooks relatively quickly and has a pleasant texture and subtle flavour.
Pearl barley is a grain that has had the inedible outer husk and edible bran removed, as opposed to hulled barley which retains some of the fibre rich bran.
Barley is a highly nutritious grain that is packed with many health-promoting nutrients. It is an excellent source of dietary fiber, containing both soluble and insoluble fiber, which can help promote digestive health and reduce the risk of certain diseases.
Barley is also a good source of plant-based protein, providing all the essential amino acids needed by the human body. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium, which play important roles in supporting immune function, promoting healthy bones and muscles, and protecting against oxidative stress.
Additionally, barley contains phytonutrients such as lignans and phenolic acids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease. Overall, barley is a nutritious and versatile grain that can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet, and it tastes great!
Unfortunately barley contains the protein gluten, so is not suitable for those requiring a gluten-free diet.
Yes! If a gluten-free grain is required then barley can be easily replaced with rice.
Any variety of rice is fine including brown, wholegrain, or black rice, however depending on the package instructions you may need to cook the rice for more or less time compared with pearl barley.
Wild rice can also be used although technically this type of rice is actually a grass.
Of course, use any leafy green veggie that you prefer.
More tasty wholesome plant-based soups
Enough for 7 days worth of delicious home cooked veggie soups:
Vegan Chinese 'chicken' and sweetcorn soup
Old-fashioned Irish potato soup
Scottish Barley Kale Broth
- soup pot or similar
- 100 grams pearl barley [washed and drained] [replace with rice for a gluten-free option if preferred]
- 160 grams kale [remove large stalks and tear large pieces up using your hands or slice with a knife]
- 200 grams leek [sliced into thin rings/larger pieces sliced into thin half moons/crescent shapes]
- 1 whole bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon marmite [vegetable extract] [can replace with miso paste if preferred]
- 3 litres vegetable stock [hot] [use a vegan 'beef' flavour stock if available, and use a gluten-free stock if necessary]
- 2 tablespoon fresh parsley [or to taste, can replace with a herb of your choice]
- a sprinkle of nutritional yeast flakes or some toasted seeds are also a tasty optional addition
- Add the pearl barley, bay leaf, marmite and hot vegetable stock to a soup pan. Bring to the boil, lower the heat to medium, and cook for 30 minutes,100 grams pearl barley, 1 whole bay leaf, 1 teaspoon marmite, 3 litres vegetable stock
- Next add the chopped kale and sliced leeks.160 grams kale, 200 grams leek
- Bring back to the boil, and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf.
- Season with salt and plenty of black pepper to taste. Sprinkle some fresh parsley over each bowl if liked. [A sprinkle of nutritional yeast flakes is a nice optional addition, as are a sprinkle of toasted seeds.]2 tablespoon fresh parsley
- Nutritional data is provided for guidance only and is not an exact calculation of your dish as ingredients can vary.
- Store leftover soup for 3-4 days within a refrigerator, or freeze for 3-4 months.
- Reheat leftover soup until piping hot.
- For gluten-free kale barley broth use a gluten-free stock and replace the barley with a rice of your choice. Although do bear in mind different cooking times.
- Kale can be switched out for a different green leafy veggie.
Prepared this tasty Scottish barley kale broth?
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Thanks so much! Jacq x
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