The humble bowl of soup

Spinach, eggs and barley work together to make this Hamburger Barley Soup with Poached Egg, a delicious comfort food.


THIS time of year is never a bad time to talk about one of my favourite things to make from scratch. A hearty and steaming bowl of warmth otherwise known as soup.

I really don’t know what it is about making a delicious pot of soup, but a lot of us chef’s take pride in it and truly enjoy it. Maybe it’s the creativity that goes into layering the flavours to create something special, perhaps it’s the ability to turn anything from freshly prepared ingredients to leftovers into something that tickles your taste buds or maybe it’s the simplicity of it all, utilizing the basics to make a good soup that can melt away the winter weather.

It’s not hard to figure out why so many of us enjoy a bowl of soup. Most of us were raised with soup making regular appearances at mealtimes.

Remember that smooth and rich tomato soup you would eat with your grilled cheese sandwich? The one takes you back to the cold weather days of your childhood when you would come in after a day of sliding and savour it while you thawed out?

Maybe for you it was that bowl of hearty chicken noodle soup your mom made you that you slurped to make you feel better and comfort you when you were fighting a nasty cold or the flu. It’s no wonder so many of us love our soup. Of course it’s delicious but it also brings out those nostalgic feelings and can spark flavour memories.

Whatever it is that gives us a love for soup it can be classified as pretty close to a perfect food. It’s hot, nutritious, delivers on tastitude and is practically limitless when it comes to flavour profiles.

Whether you are a serious carnivore, an omnivore or a vegetarian there is no doubt a soup out there for you. People with allergies, intolerances or even medical conditions can all find a soup to fit their nutritional needs too. What other singular food can offer that?Ê

Soup has probably been around since the dawn of cooking and it’s no wonder that every culture has a soup that is associated with it. Whether it be Miso Soup (Japan), Coconut Curry Soup (Thailand), Clam Chowder (USA), Borscht (Ukraine), Cock-A-Leekie Soup (Scotland), Mojakka (Finland), Cabbage Soup (Russia) or Minestrone Soup (Italy) it’s not hard to see how so many cultures can be identified by what’s steaming in that bowl on the table.Ê

It’s also cool to note that every time we go out to eat, we’re in a place that found its name with a bowl of soup. The word “restaurant” originated when the French used to sell soups called “restaurer” that were sold by vendors as a restorative. In 1765, a Parisian entrepreneur opened a shop that specialized in these hearty bowls, and the word restaurant became permanently attached to a place where you buy prepared food and sit down and eat.

Soup is probably forever imbedded in human culture and an integral part of cuisine past, present and probably future. While everyone has their personal favourite when it comes to soup it’s one of those foods that’s worth exploring.

Trying new soups and experiencing other cultures through their interpretation of this great food genre can be a flavour adventure and a rewarding one at that. No matter how you get your soup on, I’ll bet the next time you start a pot of soup on the stove or sit down to a bowl of warmth in a restaurant, you will look at this humble dish a little differently.Ê

Here’s a recipe for a pot of deliciousness to help you get started on your flavour journey as you head out to explore a world full of soup. Enjoy!

Hamburger Barley Soup With Poached Egg

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb lean hamburger
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • pinch dried marjoram
  • 1 (14 1/2 oz.) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 litre vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 cup quick-cooking barley
  • 6 oz. spinach leaves
  • 1 tbs. white vinegar
  • 4 large eggs

Add the olive oil to a large saucepan and heat to medium. Add the hamburger and onion and cook until browned. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook until mushrooms are soft and lightly browned, about five minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and marjoram and cook, stirring constantly, for two minutes more.

Add the tomatoes and vegetable or chicken broth; raise heat and bring to a boil. Add the barley, season with 1/2 tsp. salt and ground pepper to taste; cover the pot and reduce heat to maintain a brisk simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until barley is tender.

Meanwhile, fill a large skillet with water, about two inches deep. Bring to a brisk simmer over medium heat. Add the vinegar.

When barley is tender, stir the spinach into the soup and cook for one minute. Check for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle soup into shallow bowls, and immediately add the eggs to the poaching water by cracking the eggs, one at a time, into a small bowl and gently tipping each one into the poaching water. Cook for two minutes, then transfer the eggs directly into each soup bowl using a slotted spoon. Serve hot.

Richard Moorey (aka Chef House) can be reached with email to, through his website at, or on his Facebook group Evolution of Tastitude. You can follow him on Twitter @House_74.

Recommended for you