pearl barley & chicken meatballs soup

Couple years ago in a small bookstore in my hometown, I came across a beautifully published book with soup recipes. Over three hundred pages, hard cover, beautiful photos. I’m not a crazy fan of soups, but the book caught my eye, it was so beautifully published and I wished it would become a part of my small cook book collection. It was also quite expensive, and of course I didn’t need it, so I sadly left it on the bookshelf.

Moving forward couple years later, on my holiday I decided to visit this bookstore again. In general I love bookstores, and I always have to restrain myself from going into the bookstores. Simply because I want to buy most of the books I find interesting. And because most of the books seems interesting for me, choosing which one to buy is always a struggle.

Anyway, surprisingly this soup-book was still there standing alone on the top shelf: “Soup of the day” Kate McMillan. Without thinking, I took it in my arms and run to the till. To be honest I still love to leaf through this book, read the recipes and look at the photos, but…I don’t think I’ve tried more than a couple of the recipes. By the way, I really need to go through it again, maybe I will find something inspiring. So, today’s recipe comes from this book.

It has a very gentle flavour. The lack of a very pronounced taste is somehow a definite plus for me in this case. The delicacy of the soup emphasizes the taste and character of pearl barley. Large firm beans, which, even after another heating, do not become mashy.

Of course if you’re on ketogenic diet, barley is a restricted food. But I think you could swap it with broccoli or cauliflower. It’s not going to be the same soup, but it’s some kind of inspiration.

It’s a great source of nutrients if you don’t have problem with eating grains. It’s also a good source of fiber, so can help with digestion problems. Barley can help to grow good bacteria in your gut.

100 grams of uncooked barley contains:

  • Calories: 354
  • Carbs: 73.5 grams
  • Fiber: 17.3 grams
  • Protein: 12.5 grams
  • Fat: 2.3 grams
  • Thiamine: 43% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Riboflavin: 17% of the RDI
  • Niacin: 23% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 16% of the RDI
  • Folate: 5% of the RDI
  • Iron: 20% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 33% of the RDI
  • Phosphorus: 26% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 13% of the RDI
  • Zinc: 18% of the RDI
  • Copper: 25% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 97% of the RDI
  • Selenium: 54% of the RDI

On the other side, barley contains short-chain carbohydrates called fructans, which are a fermentable type of fiber. Fructans may cause gas and bloating in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other digestive disorders. So if you notice any of this symptoms after eating barley, consider eliminating it from your diet. Everyone is different, so what’s great for one person might be harmful for other.

The best way is to observe your body, how it responds to certain foods. Sometimes excluding (or including) some foods from your diet, can make a huge difference.

pearl barley and chicken meatballs soup


pearl barley & chicken meatballs soup


  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 small leeks
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 250g cremini mushrooms (or regular)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 60 ml white dry wine (I skipped this one)
  • 200g pearl barley
  • 2 l chicken broth or beef bones broth

INGREDIENTS for meatballs:

  • 2 chicken breasts (about 350g) or ready minced chicken
  • 60g grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 30g breadcrumbs (1 tsp coconut flour will do the job as well)
  • 2 tbsp fresh or dried parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste


Cut leeks lengthwise and rinse thoroughly to get rid of any remaining soil or sand. Then slice thinly. Chop garlic cloves or use a grinder. Slice mushrooms. In a big pot heat 1 tablespoon of butter, add leeks and garlic and fry for about 5 minutes on a small heat. Keep an eye on it, not to burn garlic, because it will get bitter.

Next add sliced mushrooms, and fry for another 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and wine if you like. Simmer for a moment and add pearl barley. Pour chicken or beef broth, cover with lid and simmer for about 45 minutes.

In the meantime prepare meatballs. If you use chicken breasts, mince them first. I used shredder which is a part of my blender (first I chopped breasts in smaller pieces). If you use already minced chicken, move forward.

Mix minced chicken with parmigiano reggiano, breadcrumbs (or coconut flour), chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Mix it all together using your hand until combine. If it’s sticky you can use a little bit of oil to grease your hand or some warm water. It will be easier to roll meatballs. With palm of your hands make ball size of the walnut.

Grease baking tray with some olive oil or coconut oil and place chicken meatballs. Bake for about 10-12 minutes in 190ºC.

Add baked meatballs to your soup and stir gently. If it’s too thick add more broth.

Add salt and pepper if needed and serve tossed with chopped parsley.

chicken meatballs soup


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