Barley and Boiled Egg Soup, with discs of pan-fried white turnip and parsley

Barley and Boiled Egg Soup

When I was reading one of Fae’s delicious posts recently, Barley Soup, I’d left a comment that included, I’m out of pearl barley right now. Liar! When I was looking for something else I came across the last of the barley, all 100g (3.52 oz) of it, and as I’d only bought it about six months ago I wasn’t for chucking it in the bin. So, I’ve gone with a version of a soup I’ve been meaning to make for simply years. This time the soup is garnished with thin discs of pan-fried white turnip, which were incredible almost floating on top like pale golden lily pads. And can’t quite believe how tasty they are. Especially as I’m not keen on them cooked any other way. For the life of me I can’t remember who suggested that method of cooking. Me and my awful memory. I’m very thankful, whomever you are, for the idea. With the soup I’m going with I’d added half a green finger chilli, which wasn’t really enough heat for me. I’m hoping to develop this for summer months as I love spicy soups when it’s hot outside. For those I would definitely use the entire chilli whilst reheating the soup itself and serve this with cooked rice, hard-boiled egg and freshly shelled peas. Even better for me is when fresh broad beans are available here for a short time during summer, which are delicious with a drizzle of fresh lime juice.

The inspiration for this type of Barley and Boiled Egg Soup, having a thin broth-like base with other ingredients added, happened in Toledo, Spain. When I stayed there, in a castle no less (fabulous Youth Hostel), I’d befriended several other English speaking travellers. After hectic days of lazing around the pool, that overlooked the city of Toledo across the river, we would later change and head off into town knowing it was safe – as the coaches of tourists had left already. So, during one of those fabulous evenings, with the city of Toledo virtually all to ourselves, I was proffered a broth with rice and hard-boiled egg at one of the local restaurants. I’ve always been a huge fan of soups at all times of the year, and couldn’t quite get enough of a green soup (Caldo verde) that I used to be able to order whilst in Lisbon, Portugal several weeks before staying in Toledo. Anyway, an entire week of having a room and en suite bathroom, inside an incredible castle, all to myself was bliss. So, too, were languorous conversations around the pool with the beautiful city of Toledo as a backdrop. One of the best trips ever! Until I was turfed out of my castle and ended up having to share a shed behind and out of sight of the castle itself, where everyone else were sleeping. Oh yes, they all had asked me how I’d managed to get a room inside the castle itself…as it was closing soon for winter. Luckily, I only had to sleep in the shed for one night before leaving for Barcelona. Huh, so that’s how the other half live!

Barley and Boiled Egg Soup, with discs of pan-fried white turnip and parsley



  • 2 x carrots 160g (5.64 oz) after prep, peeled, trimmed and cut into chunks
  • 200g (7.05 oz) x onions, cut in half, peeled, trimmed and cut into quarters
  • 3 x garlic cloves, peeled, trimmed and kept whole
  • 1 x broccoli stalk or stem, trimmed and split in half lengthways
  • 2 x bay leaves, split
  • 1 x pinch cayenne pepper
  • 3 x small sprigs fresh thyme, rinsed
  • 500ml (1.05 US pt lqd) x water
  • 1 x organic vegetable stock cube


  • 80 – 100g (2.82 – 3.52 oz) x pearl barley, soaked overnight in plenty of cold water. Rinse the barley well before and after soaking
  • 1/2 – 1 x green finger chilli, split in half (they’re hot so use with caution)
  • 2 x free range (cage free) medium eggs, hard-boiled and shelled
  • oil
  • 2 x small turnips about 100g (3.52 oz), trimmed, peeled and sliced crossways into thin discs
  • fresh parsley, either finely chopped or snipped with scissors
  • seasoning, both freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.


  • Add all the ingredients for the stock in a large heavy-based saucepan with a lid and put on electric heat No 4 (out of 6). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to No 2 and simmer for around 45 minutes or so. I tend to do mine the night before and strain the following day. If the soup is needed sooner do strain the stock into a suitable bowl through a metal colander, retaining the bay leaf pieces and garlic. Mash the remaining vegetables with the back of a large serving spoon to extract as much of their liquid and nutrients as possible. Pour the strained stock back into a large heavy-based saucepan through a fine wire metal sieve. Add the bay leaf pieces and the whole garlic cloves and put back on heat to reheat.
  • In the meantime, if the pearl barley hasn’t been soaked overnight do rinse it well before cooking it to the pack’s instructions. If barley was soaked then add to a saucepan with plenty of cold water and a lid. Put on heat No 4, bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Do check after 15, and if the grains are beginning to enlarge as they should do test a grain or two just to check how well they’re doing. They should be soft in texture with very little bite. Drain well and set aside.
  • Put two eggs in a saucepan with plenty of cold water on heat No 4 with a lid. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 4 – 5 minutes. Remove one with a dessert spoon and if the steam evaporates quickly the egg is cooked. Carefully place pan in sink, drain of the hot water and then run cold water into the pan until the eggs are cool enough to handle. Peel them and set aside.
  • Put a heavy-based pan/skillet on heat No 3. When pan is hot and the turnips are prepared add a little oil and place the discs into the pan without overcrowding them. Cook on both sides for around 5 minutes or until they’re a pale golden. Remove and place on kitchen paper or towel.
  • Put soup back on heat and either add the barley to the pan or, if you want to, pan-fry some of them in a little oil. Perhaps do this if you need to reheat the turnip discs. Chop the eggs however you want to. This is nice served at the table with just a few of the turnip discs floating on top. Perhaps serve the others in a warm bowl. The same thing could be done for the barley as well.
  • Serve with lots of parsley and seasoning.


All photographs within (Todas las fotografías dentro de) Feed the Piglet:
All rights reserved (© Todos los derechos reservados) – Copyright © Johnny H Hepburn


  1. Love the neep ‘lily pads’ how apt. I enjoy thin broths too, especially with big chunks of veg or cured meat. I rarely have egg in soup, good idea to add boiled. Interested to know what the green soup you had in Lisbon- and why you ended up turfed out of the castle! Thanks.


    • – The soup in Lisbon was sopa verde, a thin broth served with cabbage and potatoes. I’ve researched lots of recipes online and none of them are consistent. And, none of them were remotely spicy. However, with these green finger chillies I’m positively enthralled with I’m hoping to replicate what I remember having in Lisbon. Even though it was years ago.
      – Hah! That made me chuckle. The castle itself was closing for the winter and I just happened to be lucky enough to have a room inside rather than in the communal sleeping dorm building that looked similar to a shed. It wasn’t really. It had a dining room and showers so wasn’t terribly shabby. Compared to the splendour of ‘my’ castle, though, I nicknamed it the shed!


    • I’m loving these green finger chillies I can now buy. Especially for a simple beefed-up veg broth like this. Really looking forward to guzzling on large bowls of this stuff with differing veg during summer.


  2. I love the composition of your photos! In Asia, barley is mainly used to make drinks and desserts. It’s pretty rare to see them in savoury soups! Sounds really delicious!


    • Thank you! Wish my step-by-step were as good as yours. The barley is fairly subtle in flavour. I’ve always loved the stuff in soups. However, I’m going to pan-fry the leftover barley later on to see if that improves on the flavour and texture. Shall update!


    • – Thanks!
      – Unusual, seriously? I’ve been meaning to make a version of the soup I had in Toledo for years! And I just had to give the little turnip one more chance. So glad I did 🙂 They really are delicious pan-fried. Should be good for Rösti as well, I would’ve thought. They’re not crisp as I imagined them to be. Doesn’t matter here as they really were good in this soup.


    • Thank you. It was packed with flavour. To the extent I had leftovers last night with just the pan-fried turnip. Going to develop a white turnip version next week, hopefully. Can’t get enough of these soups, partly as it’s cold here again.


    • – I was so lucky to score that castle for a week! What a great time in Toledo 🙂
      – As for the soup I’m pleased with this one. Those little turnips are so good pan-fried, that I’m going with them in a soup next week. Surprised I’m saying that!


  3. Pingback: What Can I Do With Barley? | jovinacooksitalian

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