Creamy celery root, leek, and barley soup

April 26, 2010 at 12:00 am (B plus, French, Georgeanne Brennan, Grains, Root vegetables, soup, Starches, Winter recipes) ()

Derek and I are going to spend a few days in Paris next week–just in time for his 30th birthday!  In anticipation of the trip, I recently bought the cookbook France: The Vegetarian Table, by Georgeann Brennan.  The Vegetarian Table is a series of cookbooks written by different authors, one per country.  In addition to the France cookbook, there is a cookbook for American, Japan, Indian, Italy, Mexico, Thailand, and North Africa.  (When I lived in the co-op in college we had the Japan cookbook and I made excellent pickled ginger using their recipe._  One thing that I really like about the French cookbook is that it offers recipes using produce appropriate to every season.  Mediterranean cookbooks so often rely almost entirely on vegetables that are local here only in the summer–peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, etc.  But Brennan includes recipes that use spring vegetables, and also ones that use vegetables that are available in the winter.  Here in Saarbruecken we’re just starting to see the first of the Spring vegetables, but I’ve been stuffed up lately, and so I was craving hot soup rather than fresh Spring vegetables.  I decided to try one of the winter recipes instead.


  • 1/4 cup pearl barley
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 leek, including the tender portion of the green tops, minced
  • 3/4 to 1 large celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice (about 3 cups)
  • 3 cups salted vegetable broth (she recommends a leek and mushroom broth)
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup milk


  1. In a 1.5 – 2 cup saucepan combine the barley with 3 cups of the water and the salt.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, mince the leek and peel and dice the celery root.  In a 3- to 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.  When it begins to foam, add the leek and celery root and saute until the color changes slightly, 3 to 4 medium.  Add the broth and the remaining 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, until the celery root is tender, 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat.
  3. Use a stick blender to roughly puree half the soup.  Drain the cooked barley into the soup, and add the half-and-half and milk.  Stir well and heat to serving temperature.  Do not allow the soup to boil.  Serve hot.

My notes:

My celery root was pretty large and I ended up with about 4.5 cups of diced celery root.  I reserved about 1.5 cups for a salad.  My vegetable broth was unsalted so I added a bit of salt with it.  There’s no half-and-half in Germany, so I used 1/4 cream and 3/4 lowfat milk. My barley was very soft after 50 minutes.

The soup was tasty–creamy but with nice texture.  I liked the combination of the barley and the celery root and leek.  My one complaint about the soup was that it seemed just a little greasy.  Next time I’ll try reducing the butter to 1 Tbs.

To accompany the soup I made a salad with fennel, the rest of the celery root, an orange, mache, and kalamata olives.  I made a dressing from lemon juice, lowfat yogurt, mustard, and a little olive oil.  The salad was quite nice, and went well with the soup.  However, the meal as a whole was probably a little low in protein.  Maybe I should have added chickpeas to the salad.

Rating: B+
Derek:  B+


1 Comment

  1. captious said,

    Alma asked me to make this soup for dinner. She argued (correctly) that we hadn’t had celery root or barley in a long time. But she wanted me to leave out the leek. I put the leek in but pureed all the leeks up. I just left my stick blender touching the bottom of the pot so that the large chunks of celery root couldn’t get in, but all the leek did. The soup still tasted good but I missed the additional texture the leek bits provided. I served the soup with garlicky sauteed kohlrabi greens, and I really liked the combination. The greens added more color and texture and a nice garlicky bite.

    Alma ate her first bowl of soup and then asked for just barley no celery root in her second bowl. So I gave her some extra barley with the soup broth ladled over it.

    I cooked 3/4 cup of barley in my instant pot, with 1.5 cups of water. I think it was pearled barley and I cooked it for 20 minutes + 12 minutes NR. Almost all the pressure was released at that point. Just a little bit of steam came out. The barley was cooked but definitely on the al dente side. If you want softer barley maybe try 22 minutes?

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