Fava Bean & Barley Soup

soup pot

This rich, thick and hearty soup came about thanks to two fellow Boston bloggers, Kelly and Sues.  After reading my tortelloni soup post, they both encouraged me to check out the New England Soup Factory Cookbook, so, I immediately ordered it up via the Minuteman Library Network.  This is my usual M.O. when I'm curious about a cookbook - I vet it via the library and decide if I want to add it to "The Collection" or not.  "The Collection" is getting so large that it's going to have to move outside the kitchen very soon . . . so there's no room for stragglers.

This, is a GREAT cookbook - thanks Kelly & Sues!  There are so many good-looking recipes here - seasonal soups (think cool, light soups for summer, root veggie soups for winter), simple childhood favorites like Alphabet soup, creamy chowders, tomato-based soups, and sandwiches and salads to go alongside.  On the first pass-through, I flagged 7 soups that particularly stood out for me, and this one was one of them.  I wasn't disappointed!

As is my way, I tweaked and doctored.  This recipe turns out a vat of inexpensive, hearty, savory soup that'll stick to your ribs.  D., at first skeptical, pronounced it "delicious," which is good, 'cause unless I freeze this, we'll be eating it all week . . . .

Fava Bean & Barley Soup

1 lb. dried peeled and split fava beans (a.k.a. butter beans or broad beans)
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 yellow onions, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
4 ribs celery, diced
1/2 lb. pearl barley
12 c. low-sodium chicken broth, plus more as needed
2 bay leaves
1/2 c. fresh parsley, chopped
6 dashes Worcestershire sauce, plus more to taste
1 T. balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


To prepare the fava beans:  rinse and pick over the beans and discard any discolored beans or pebbles.  Put the beans in a bowl and cover with water.  Let stand overnight, then drain and rinse.  Alternatively, in a large saucepan, combine the beans with enough water to cover.  Cover the pan, and bring to a boil.  Turn off the heat and let the beans sit for two hours.  Drain them before adding to the soup.

Heat the oil in a stockpot or large Dutch oven (this just fit in my 7 1/4-quart Dutch oven) over medium high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery.  Saute until the onion is translucent and the celery is softened, about 10 minutes.  Add the beans and the barley and saute for another 2 minutes.  Add the stock and the bay leaves.  Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours or until the favas are thoroughly cooked, adding more stock if the soup is too thick (I probably added another 2 c. part-way through the cooking time).  Add the parsley, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Remove the bay leaves before serving.

Serves 12.  Note - if you're tasting the soup prior to adding the Worcestershire, etc., it'll be quite bland . . . those last few ingredients make it all come together in a delicious flash of light, so don't be discouraged!

What the heck are fava beans?  I love 'em, and have eaten them for years - again probably because of my Mid-East roots.  If they're new to you, here are some facts:  Fava beans were enjoyed by the ancient Egyptians and continue to be a prime source of protein in Middle Eastern cuisine. Favas are considered by many to be one of the tastiest beans - they have a firm texture and creamy, meaty taste that holds up well to strong flavors.  Fava beans hold their shape well, so they're great in soups.  They do have a very tough, inedible skin, so it's important to get dried favas with the skins already removed.