When I moved to Liverpool for university in 2003 (I feel old) I was shocked to find out that the English version of Vegetable Soup was not the same as the Irish version. Our Vegetable Soup here in Northern Ireland is a taste that symbolises home for me – I have been eating it my whole life. It is an old fashioned broth, made with leeks, carrots, ‘soup celery’ and mixture of peas, barley and lentils. It can be made with chicken as well but I stick to the vegetable version.
Most supermarkets in Northern Ireland stock a soup vegetable pack – either pre-prepared or ready to peel and chop at home. The pulses can also be bought mixed together, as a ‘soup mix’.
Ingredients (makes enough for 3 large bowls)
- 1/2 cup dried soup mix if available such as Buchanans (split peas, pearl barley, red lentils), soaked overnight. If this is not available, use a small handful of each item, and soak overnight.
- 1 large carrot, 1 leek, small bunch soup celery, large bunch parsley, or you can use pre-prepared soup vegetables such as Quinfresh Soup Vegetables 320g. Soup celery is a thinner, slightly red toned version of celery. I think it might be the same as red celery but I can’t find much about it online! If you can’t get this, use normal celery – about 3 sticks.
- 1.5 pints vegetable stock
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Soak the peas, barley and lentil mix overnight – put in a bowl and cover with water. It should soak most of it up.
- Peel and chop the soup vegetables if necessary, I like them chopped quite finely.
- Prepare your stock and add to a large saucepan. Bring to the boil.
- Add your peas, barley and lentils, boil for 5 minutes.
- Add your vegetables, boil for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Reduce the heat and let the soup simmer for approx. 30 minutes.
The soup has a very distinctive, earthy flavour and smell. It tastes best the day after making, in my opinion. Adding a bit of Tabasco sauce works well if you like things spicy. I like eating the soup with wheaten bread and mature cheddar. My mum used to make Melba toast with it when we were younger. We used to spread thick butter on it and dip it in the soup.
This soup is perfect when you want something tasty, wholesome and warming, and I can guarantee it will bring you a taste of home if you are an N.I expat!
P.S. Tell me in the comments, which foods and recipes give you that distinctive taste of home?