Sunday, September 2, 2012
Slovenian Dinner Week 29: Ričet, A Tasty Barley-Bean Soup
Ričet (Slovenian Barley Soup)
Red Cabbage and Beet Slaw
Green Salad with Feta and Croutons
By Week 29 of my ethnic cooking project, I had made and enjoyed most of the classic Slovenian soups. All except for one. Ričet. (Reach-ett.) Slovenian barley-bean soup.
From what I read, ričet is considered a humble dish, but it is still a favorite in Slovenia today. It is something like minestrone, with a fair amount of latitude with the ingredients.
But I balked. It was all because of the barley. I had never cooked with it. I had unfortunate memories of a canned barley soup from my childhood, called (I think) Campbell's Scotch Broth. Those pale, soft, slimy globules of barley made me feel squeamish. And I hadn't actually seen a soup called ričet in my trio of Slovenian American cookbooks. So maybe I was off the hook.
But then I spotted a recipe for "Barley Soup Dinner" in The American Slovene Club's Our Favorite Recipes. No doubt about it. It was ričet. So I gave in.
I used that recipe as a foundation. I did add a few additional touches, like parsley root (another new ingredient for me) from the ričet recipe in the 1988 Yugoslav Cookbook.
I was not optimistic.
1/2 c. pearled barley
1 c. Roman (borlotti) beans
water to cover barley and beans
1 lb. smoked pork chop, cut in pieces (or use another smoked meat or sausage)
2 c. carrots, sliced
1 c. celery, sliced
1 onion, chopped
4 small parsley roots, with leaves, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. fresh tomatoes, chopped
fresh parsley, minced, to taste
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
First, prepare the barley and beans together. If you plan ahead, you can soak them overnight. I used the quick soak method: Rinse and drain the uncooked barley and beans. Place them in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add water to cover, bring to a boil, then cover and let sit for 1 hour. Then drain again, cover in fresh water, and simmer for 1 hour. This time, do not drain.
Next, add the remaining ingredients to the pot of barley and beans. Simmer for 1 more hour or so. Adjust the seasonings. Garnish with parsley and serve.
The verdict: Mild but flavorful. Easy to prepare. And the barley wasn't slimy at all. It tasted very much like a white bean with bacon soup I had enjoyed in the past. Nothing like the Campbell's variety.
So I mentioned it to my mother, figuring she would be surprised.
"So Mom, I made this Slovenian barley soup. I thought it would be slimy. But it was pretty good. Grandma never cooked with barley, did she?"
"Sure." Then a pause.
"But her barley was NEVER slimy."
Here is an amazing 1950s commercial for Campbell's Scotch Broth, my barley turn-off from childhood!