Borlotti beans, pearl barley and sauerkraut.
These are three of my favourite ingredients and combined make a fabulous soup: Minestra d’orzo e fagioli con “capuzi garbi’ (sour cabbage as called in Trieste – sauerkraut)
What more would you want on a cold Melbourne winter’s day with many people who may need cheering up?
I have all of these ingredients at hand because I like pulses and barley as components in salads or soups. I usually cook them separately and store them in containers in their juice in my fridge and in my freezer. There are always jars of sauerkraut in my pantry – this comes from having lived in Trieste as a child. The combination of mixing the cooked ingredients to make a last-minute soup can be even easier.
Like the majority of the way Italians cook, the quantity of ingredients is only an estimate…use more or less of any ingredient to suit your taste.
There are variations for making this soup in Trieste – not everyone adds sauerkraut, but very popular is the addition of lard and /or potatoes which will thicken the soup. I prefer my soup with more liquid and therefore omit the potatoes.
I generally do not have Lardo in my fridge but I can easily purchase it if I wish. Lardo does make a big difference if used – it will enrich the taste and the texture of the soup.
What is Lardo in Italian?
In this case, the Lardo is Lardo Affumicato – Smoked Lard – Speck.
Also called Lardo is an Italian salume that is eaten (sliced very thinly) and widely used in Italian cuisine especially in northern Italy; it is made from the thick layer of fat from the back of a pig and cured with a mixture of salt, herbs, and spices; the most esteemed Italian Lardo is aged in the warm, fresh caves in the area of Carrara (famous for its marble) and no additives or preservatives are used.
Pork fat, or rendered pork fat is also called Lardo in Italian and is lard in English.
I have nothing against canned beans but pulses are so easy to cook that I do not buy any, but if you do, cook the barley and add the drained beans to the barley. You will need to add some stock to this combination because you will not have the “bean broth” – the water the beans have been cooked in.
If you wish to add potatoes, do this at the same time as you put the barley to cook.
Borlotti Beans, dry 250g
Pearl Barley, 250g
Garlic, 1 – 3 cloves
Salt and pepper
Parsley, a handful, chopped
Bay leaves, 2 – 4
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle on top of soup when it is ready to serve
Lardo/Smoked/Speck, 80 -100g, cubed into very small pieces
Potatoes, 2 – 3 cubed
Sauerkraut, 150 – 200g, drained and squeezed
Soak beans and barley overnight separately in plenty of water.
Drain the beans, replenish with plenty of cold water, add bay leaves, garlic and cook them for about 30 minutes. Add the soaked barley, seasoning and parsley and cook until the beans and barley are soft…. probably about 20-30 minutes longer.
If adding sauerkraut or potatoes add these at the same time as the barley.
Lard, both the rendered fat and Speck are very popular in the food of Trieste and if you wish to use it put it in at the same time as the beans. I prefer to drizzle some good quality, extra virgin olive oil on top and some freshly ground, black pepper.