Sunday, October 28, 2012

Armenian hot yoghurt and pearl barley soup

The Armenians occupy one of the four quarters of  old Jerusalem and have a very long history of presence in the city. I decided to make this soup because it seemed like a great dish for a cold evening. Needless to say, it was my first introduction to Armenian food, since I snubbed their eateries in Jerusalem and haven't been otherwise to Armenia or other places with lots of Armenians, so I can't say if this recipe felt a little weird because Armenian cuisine's a little weird for my palate, or because something didn't quite go as it should have. Here is my recipe, reproportioned for one:
- 70 g of pearl barley
-half an onion, finely chopped
- mint leaves
- 2 spoonfuls olive oil (the original indicates butter)
- 1 egg
- 3 large spoonfuls of plain yoghurt
- salt and black pepper

Fill a pan with water and put the barley to boil with a teaspoonful of salt, until the barley is cooked but al dente, you need water for the soup so add some if it's evaporating. In the meantime, sauté the onion and mint in olive oil. Whisk the egg and yoghurt in a mixing bowl. Slowly pour in the barley and water, one ladle at the time, so that the yoghurt doesn't split. Then return the soup to the stove and bring to medium eat, stirring continuously. Serve hot.

The main issue I had with the soup is that it was too "eggy", because of problems in reproportioning. The original recipe is for 4 people and includes 2 eggs, and obviously there was no way I could use less than one egg. It felt a bit like some sort of liquid omelet (but maybe that's how the Armenians like it?) Next time, I'm certainly going to use a ton more herbs to temper this, because anything which is yoghurt/herbs is bound to be delicious. I also don't get why Ottolenghi&Tamimi recommend using butter so much in contexts where olive oil would make much more sense to me (after all, this is Mediterranean food we're talking about). Maybe they're adapting the recipes to their intended British audience?
However, it made me think that barley is an ingredient I totally need to use more and it's true that it makes for a very comforting dish.

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