Black bean, black barley soup & toasted barley walnut bread

Black bean black barley soup

Yesterday was rainy and cold. I felt tired (Isaac had kept us up for hours after our crazy neighbors talking to the police had kept us up for hours.) I felt discouraged. I should have taken a nap. What did I do instead? I baked bread! And then … I made soup! Just before we ate the bread and the soup I realized they both contained barley. OMG! Is that like wearing your plaid shirt with your plaid pants? It is, isn’t it? But then, maybe you’re thinking about it, and you realize that though they’re different plaids, they do have a few colors in common. They do look sort of nice together. You could just pretend you’d planned it that way all along. It’s an outfit!

I bought black barley at the whole foods last week, and I’ve been so excited about cooking with it! David suggested black barley & black bean soup, and the second he said it, I could just taste it! It would be dark and savory and smoky. Meaty almost. It would be simple – just the beans and the barley, but it would have a lot of flavor. Rosemary, sage, smoked paprika, a little tamari… a nice dark rich broth.

I’m not sure how the barley-bread bee got into my bonnet. I wanted to make a dark, dense crunchy bread. With nuts and whole grains and a crispy crust. I think it turned out that way! It’s got toasted walnuts and toasted oats, both roughly ground. It’s got whole wheat flour and black pepper. And it’s got toasted barley flour, which has a lovely, distinctive, sweetly nutty flavor. I made a long, thin loaf, for maximum crust, and I bent it into a “C” shape, because I wanted to bake my initials. Nah, really, I wanted to fit it onto my baking sheet. It was very very nice with the soup, and good sliced thinly and toasted with cinnamon sugar as well.

Here’s Aaron Copland’s Barley Wagons. It’s lovely!


2 T olive oil
1 shallot – finely chopped
1 clove garlic – minced
2 t fresh rosemary – finely chopped
1 t sage
1/2 t thyme
1 t smoked paprika
1/4 t mustard powder
1/4 t cayenne (or to taste)
2 bay leaves
1 cup black barley
2 t tomato paste
1/4 t marmite
2 t tamari
1 cup beer
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 t raw sugar or brown sugar
1 t balsamic
1 T butter (optional – omit if you’re trying to keep it vegan)
sea salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the bay leaves and shallot, cook for a few minutes. Add the sage, rosemary and thyme. Cook until the shallot just starts to brown. Add the tomato paste, tamari and marmite. Stir well. Add the barley. Stir to coat, and let it cook for a few minutes, till it starts to smell toasty. Add the beer.

Cook until the beer becomes thick and slightly syrupy, then add the beans, 1/2 t salt, the sugar, the cayenne, mustard and paprika. Stir once, then add four cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 45 minutes till the barley is soft. (It takes longer to cook than regular barley!) The little barley grains will split when they’re done. THey’re white inside. It will still be a little al dente – not as soft as regular barley. But it should be quite soft and not bitter. You might need to add a little more water as it cooks, if it starts to get too thick.

Add the balsamic and butter. Taste for salt and add lots of pepper.


1 t yeast
2 t raw sugar
1/2 cup warm water

Combine these in a large bowl, and leave in a warm place for about ten minutes. Then add 1/2 cup of regular flour and 1 cup of warm water. Mix well. Cover, and leave in a warm place for an hour. It should be thick and bubbly.

1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup toasted barley flour
2-3 cups whole wheat flour
1 t salt
2 T olive oil
black pepper

Toast the walnuts and oats in a dry frying pan. Let them cool, then process them till they’re crumbly.

Add olive oil to the bubbly starter. Then add all the flours, walnuts, oats, salt and pepper (Start with two cups of whole wheat, but have more on hand). Mix with a spoon until it becomes too stiff. Turn the dough onto a counter and knead for ten minutes, till it’s soft and elastic. Add more whole wheat flour as necessary. It will never become completely smooth cause of the nuts and oats, so don’t put any unrealistic expectations on it!

Put it in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Leave two hours to rise. Punch it down and leave it about another hour.

Then take it out and form into a long snake. Roll this flat – so that it’s about 2 feet by 5 inches by 1/2 inch. Starting at one long end, roll it up tight to make a snake again. Transfer this seam-side down to a lightly buttered, lightly corn-mealed baking sheet. Any shape you like! Long or round or squiggly.

Leave for half an hour. Towards the last 15 minutes, preheat your oven to 450. Brush the bread with cool water, and then stick it in the hot oven. Sprinkle some water on the bottom of the oven and then close the door to make steam. This will give the bread a crispy crust. Every five minutes or so, brush the bread with water and sprinkle more water on the bottom of the oven. After 3 times of doing this, you can just sprinkle with water a few times. Then you can just leave it. I think it took about 45 minutes to cook. (I lost track because I was making soup!) It will be deeper brown on the top, and toasty brown on the bottom, and sound hollow when you tap it. (Although it’s a dense bread, so it won’t sound quite as hollow as a regular loaf)

It’s good right out of the oven with some salty butter!


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