As I was peeling potatoes for this soup I thought of my Grandmother peeling a potato. She could peel an entire skin of a potato in one long, curling peel! I’ve tried, I just can’t do it! That got me to thinking about my parents house where she lived and where my parents still live. Tom and I just spent a wonderful Christmas there with my family and I loved it!
The house…it’s a large old frame house with huge old oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. You have to drive down a winding dirt road canopied with those old oaks to get to the house. My children call it “The Farmhouse”. We have had a lot of fun there, and the house has seen many seasons. My family likes to laugh and we have had plenty of silly times! They have had large vegetable gardens, roosters, chickens, (did you know that chickens will peck your toenails if you have a bright polish on them?!) geese, and lots of cats have come and gone. It is in the country in the middle of Florida and the acreage it sits on is lush and green and pretty wild. Some of the elephant ears are so large you could set up camp under them! The mosquitoes will carry you off in the summer but still, I love it! Sitting on the steps on the front porch sipping my coffee first thing in the morning surrounded by all those old oak trees is about my most favorite thing to do. The birds are happily singing, the tree frogs are chirping and we even saw a fox run across the yard on this last trip!
Inside, there are old hardwood floors, scuffed and scratched from lives lived on them and really just perfect like that. All of the windows are old double hung windows with sash pulleys to raise and lower them. The windows in the front of the house are said to be salvaged from some old governor’s mansion and they are unique and so pretty. A cozy fireplace graces the living room which is an unusual thing to have in Florida but it gets chilly once in a while in the winter and gets put to good use then.
I mentioned cats and funny times, well one memory comes to mind. We had an old cat named Pixie, who died peacefully in her sleep one night and my oldest son Donnie, who was about 8 or 9 at the time, decided that he wanted to be in charge of the burial so he set off with a shovel and thought a nice place would be right under one of the lovely old oaks. Well, if you have ever tried to dig a hole under an oak tree you know that the roots and the ground around it are pretty unyielding! He was gone for quite a while before he came back in and asked us to come on out and pay our last respects. Well, I guess he got pretty tired trying to dig through all those roots and only dug a small hole. When we went out to have a look, all four of poor Pixie’s paws were sticking up out of the ground like some kind of kitty paw plant sprouting through the dirt! I know it sounds awful but it was the funniest thing! I tried not to laugh but you just couldn’t help it! (my Dad re-buried Pixie later so don’t worry 🙂 )
The house has hosted weddings, parties and holidays and ALWAYS centers around good ole’ southern food! Which brings me back to this Farmhouse Vegetable Soup that is simmering on the stove. It’s full of all kinds of good things that comfort and nourish the body and soul. It reminds me of home and my Grandmother and what on earth more could you ever want from a humble bowl of soup?
On to the recipe! I found this recipe on Cook’s Illustrated who I trust since they test their recipes so thoroughly but this one missed the mark for me. It was just too bland and watered down for me so I adapted it by substituting chicken broth for the water and leaving out the soy sauce which was just weird to me in this soup. I loved that they used humble ingredients though like turnips and cabbage along-side fancier ingredients like white wine and porcini mushrooms (I used morel because that’s all I could find) but honestly you can really play with this recipe and make it your own.
Substitute whatever you have on hand. I’ve used onions instead of leeks. I’ve left out the wine and replaced it with chicken broth. I’ve left off the powdered mushrooms altogether and honestly didn’t miss it much. You can sub all of the broth for vegetable broth if you like. My favorite way to eat it is with crumbled bacon on top!
- 1/8 ounce dried porcini mushrooms or morel which I used since I couldn't find any porcini
- 8 sprigs fresh parsley plus 3 tablespoons chopped for throwing in at the end.
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 pounds leeks, white and light green parts sliced 1/2 inch thick and washed thoroughly
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- Salt and pepper
- 10 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup pearl barley
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
- 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 turnip, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 1 1/2 cups chopped green cabbage
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice (don't leave this out, it really makes a difference for such a small amount)
- Grind porcini with spice grinder or blender, which is what I used, until they resemble fine meal, 10 to 30 seconds. Measure out 2 teaspoons porcini powder; reserve remainder for other use. Using kitchen twine, tie together parsley sprigs and thyme, tie in the bay leaf too if you can, I couldn't so I just tossed it in when I tossed in the herbs.
- Melt butter in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks, carrots, celery, wine, and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and celery is softened, for about 10 minutes.
- Add broth, barley, porcini powder, herb bundle, bay leaf and garlic; increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes.
- Add potatoes, turnip, and cabbage; return to simmer and cook until barley, potatoes, turnip, and cabbage are tender, 20 minutes.
- Remove pot from heat and remove herb bundle and fish out the bay leaf. Stir in peas, lemon juice, and chopped parsley; season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve this up with crumbled bacon or cheddar cheese. It's also good with homemade croutons!