Barley and chestnuts were staple winter foods at one time as they could be kept for months, often saving people from famine across Europe. Both, in my opinion, need a bit of a kick with flavour. In the Veneto you would be able to add the end of a leg of prosciutto but we have replaced that with bacon. With the addition of a Parmesan rind this becomes a flavourful, creamy, risotto-like soup that will bring comfort on the chilliest of days.
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ZUPPA DI ORZO, CASTAGNE E PANCETTA: Bacon, Chestnut and Barley Soup
- 15 g 1/2 oz/1 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
- 5 slices streaky unsmoked bacon, finely chopped
- 1 quantity of soffritto
- 2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 long sprig of rosemary
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1.5 litres 51 fl oz/6 cups Chicken or Vegetable stock (bouillon)
- 1 Parmesan rind
- 100 g 31/2 oz/ 2/3 cup cooked chestnuts
- 150 g 51/2 oz/ 2/3 cup pearl barley
- 30 g 1 oz Parmesan, finely grated
- Heat the butter and oil over a medium heat in a large heavy- based saucepan and fry the bacon, Soffritto, garlic, bay leaf, rosemary and seasoning for 10–15 minutes until the vegetables start to soften and become translucent.
- Add the stock and Parmesan rind to the pan, increase the heat and bring to the boil, stirring through. Crumble in half of the chestnuts and add the pearl barley. When the soup is spluttering, reduce the heat to a simmer so that is bubbles gently. Stir every now and again for around 25 minutes or until the barley is soft, adding more stock or hot water if necessary. Serve in warm bowls scattered with the remaining crumbled chestnuts, a swirl of oil, a little black pepper and the Parmesan.
Recipes from Venice by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi (Hardie Grant, £18.99), Photography © Helen Cathcart