Rustic Barley Soup with Kale and Sweet Potato

This week, I made babies.

It was a week of newborn cultivation - changing and feeding and watching expectantly ... and then, yesterday, there they were. My own yeasty, sourdough babies. I'm not even going to pretend I know what I'm doing with them, but they're sitting in the fridge right now, and they've already provided us with a lovely (tasty but dense) little loaf for dinner last night.

So, you could say I've been thinking about bread a lot lately. And by lately, I mean for the past 10 years. It all started with a couple trips to Europe, some intensely-disappointing local baguettes, and this book - which inspired my current sourdough project (and some amazing pretzels!). I'm lazy, which has hindered me on the bread-making front ... even after years of trying, I'm happier meditating for 10 minutes than tinkering with gloopy dough on my benchtop, regardless of its meditative qualities.

But I really, really like bread that a) tastes like something, b) doesn't contain strange non-bread-like flours or oils (see my post here about that) and c) doesn't go instantly stale. According to Daniel Leader - my go-to bread guru - artisanal sourdough overcomes all those issues. Hence, baby-making.

But this isn't a post about making sourdough. I recommend a good book on it, or you can check out these posts at the Kitchn or Nourished Kitchen or Joy the Baker. Nope, mine is a post about SAVING your precious bread once you've got it. Making use of stale bits, or crusts your child has convinced you to cut off, even though (seriously, child) they're the best part. It's a post about using every last crumb of that awesome loaf of bread you punched into shape with your own two hands, or spent $7 on at the market. 

Whenever I cut crusts off nice bread, or nice bread goes stale on me, I cut it into 1" pieces and pop it in a tin in the freezer. It keeps there, happily for at least a month or more - unless you accidentally leave the freezer door ajar and they defrost and then refreeze and taste like cardboard. But those are exceptional circumstances. Usually, they taste amazing even after they've been frozen.

My recommendation? FREEZE BREAD CUBES + CRUSTS. Do it.

Then, you can use your rescued bread for:
  • recipes that call for bread crumbs (just blitz them)
  • bread pudding like this one (with blackberries, peaches and pecans) or this one (with apples and dark chocolate - and no, you don't have to make so much you use a dozen eggs in the process. Make one just for you!
  • Thanksgiving-style stuffing (my fave)
  • bread salad, middle-eastern style or Italian-style (also known as panzanella)
  • Skordalia - a Greek walnut- and garlic-infused bread dip
  • adding that certain je ne sais quoi to stews or soups

Like this one, which I'm hoping warms you like a hug.
Have a great rest of your week,
Amanda xx

Rustic Barley Soup 
with Kale and Sweet Potato
serves 4-6

This soup is organic food at its thrifty, market-fresh best: make it with whatever deep, rich greens you've just bought (I used kale, from my favourite Sunday market) and you can substitute pumpkin or even carrots for the sweet potato if you prefer. Barley is one of the cheapest of organic ingredients, and we're using bread or crust cubes saved from the bin ... so this soup is particularly budget-friendly - as well as healthy, warming and self-affirming. Self-affirming? Of course it is.

The time
10 min prep + 1 hour sauteing/cooking

The ingredients
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup pearl barley
2 cups cubed, peeled sweet potato (~1 large one)
8 cups water or stock
2 generous Tbs butter (omit, if you want to veganise)
2 cups stale or frozen bread cubes
2 cups of the greenest kale you can find - destemmed, rolled and sliced* (~ 1/2 bunch)
sea salt and black pepper, to taste

*Check out the NOTE below to see what I mean. And buy organic when you can, particularly for the greens.

The process
1. Saute the garlic, onion and dried thyme in olive oil on medium heat until soft but not coloured. Add the barley and sweet potato, and continue sauteing for another 10 minutes, stirring regularly.

2. Add the water or stock, bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered for ~45 minutes or until the barley and sweet potato are soft (but not mushy).

3. Five minutes before serving, stir through the butter, bread cubes and kale, and season to taste. Enjoy!

The cost
My organic batch of soup cost me less than $1/serve, using rescued bread.

  • I always try to buy the deepest green of greens at the market, and the fresher the better. 
  • Since kale can be chewy, I like to roll up the leaves and slice them finely along the roll - giving them a thin, shredded look and immensely improving their cookability.
  • This recipe was inspired by a soup in my favourite country Italian cookbook, Cucina Povera
  • The butter finds the bread, inside the soup. I swear it's true.


  1. HOW DELICIOUS! Can't wait to try your recipe out, I'm always looking for a good soup recipe.

  2. Now this recipe right here leaves the health and the pocket satiated. I guess there is no point of burning the bills if you can get such soporific and palatable bowl of soup right in your home.

    Thanks for sharing the recipe.
    I guess it's time for me to do something for my stomach.

  3. So glad the weather is cooling down and soup can be back on the menu. Love all your ideas. I haven’t seen this book. It looks fantastic. Dare I buy another recipe book. Hope you are well. x

  4. Hi Julia, Melissa + Sherilyn! I hope you love the soup as much as we did :)

  5. Amanda @ Easy Peasy OrganicApril 25, 2013 at 8:04 PM

    @Sherilyn @ Wholepromise And ... I'm afraid to say, I LOVE that cookbook - even as a vegetarian, which says a lot!

    But Mother's Day *is* coming up ... ;)

  6. Thank you so much for posting this recipe, I am literally making it right now. I didn't have barley on hand so I am substituting bulgar but I am sure that will turn out good. I enjoy readiing your blog so much but I have never posted before... Just wanted to say thank you!

  7. I'm going to leave this recipe on my "to do" list for next Fall.


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Thanks for commenting! Amandaxx