Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pearl Barley Soup (Kruubisupp) and an Estonian tradition

Estonian pearl barley soup "Kruubisupp"

Probably the most popular pearl barley soup in Switzerland is the Bündner Gerstensuppe. When I moved to Switzerland I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Swiss honour this lovely grain in their cooking as much as the Estonians do. Pearl barley is a favourite for many in Estonian cooking too. Some best Estonian home cooking recipes use pearl barley. Barley was used in the old days as a nutritious filling ingredient in soups and stews. It keeps the belly full and gives energy for a long time, a lot like oats do.

Talking about energy foods in today´s post, I allow myself to take a short diversion into comparative linguistics here, my other hobby horse.

In Estonia when a passer-by sees people working hard, be it physical work like cutting wood, working in the field, shoveling snow or in modern days even doing work of less difficult nature, it is customary to wish them "Jõudu!" (Strength!) or "Jõudu tööle!" (Vigour to your work!... or something like that). The idea is that the person passing or equally when joining in in the work he or she wishes strength to finish the work or that the work goes well to those already working. The other person usually would respond with "Jõudu vaja" or "Jõudu tarvis", both meaning "Strength is needed".

I tried to find an equivalent to this saying in other languages or cultures I know. Didn´t come across much.... The English would say perhaps "Good luck" or "Fingers crossed" or in German one could perhaps say "Ich wünsche Dir Kraft". The closest saying I have seen in practice has been in Holland where I have heard many many times people wishing each other "Succes!" with a task or an assignment in a business context.

Words and expressions  gain foot in a language because the action happens frequently or phenomenon they describe  is wide spread. My so far unsuccessful search for equivalent expressions in other languages clearly hints to the Estonians having work, work, work on their mind. Throughout the years, decades and centuries, Estonians have had to work hard either to survive the cold winters or to survive as a nation.

Not long now until holidays. I wish everyone has a chance to pause and enjoy some rest at the end of the year. The winter is coming in the north, so keep warm and strong with some pearl barley soup.

Pearl barley soup (Gerstensuppe in Switzerland or Kruubisupp in Estonia)

Ingredients (enough for 4 portions):
2 tbsp vegetable oil (eg. rape seed or sunflower oil)
150g carrots, cut into small cubes
150g celeriac, cut into small cubes
100g leek, cut thinly
150g potato, cut into small cubes
70g pearl barley
1.5l water or strong meat stock
1 teaspoon salt
crème fraîche
parsley, thinly chopped

smoked meat or bacon (optional)

In order to reduce the cooking time, soak the pearl barley in cold water for a few hours.

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the vegetables and cook for a about 5 minutes.

Add the pearl barley onto the vegetables but do not mix.

Pour the water/stock into the pan, Season with salt if using water.

Cook at low heat for an hour until barley is soft. Season with pepper and additional salt if necessary.

Serve with crème fraîche and parsley.

For a meaty option, add some smoked meat, cut into cubes or stripes, during cooking or fry bacon cubes separately and serve on top with crème fraîche and parsley.