I first tried this soup at a cozy little mountain chalet in Graubünden, in the Alps of Switzerland. The chewy barley suspended in a broth that had flecks of air-dried beef, leek, carrot, and celery root, with just a touch of cream. I was hooked!
Since that wonderful meal so many years ago, I have made a version of this soup many, many times. In the original version, the recipe calls for a calf’s foot to be simmered along with the barley. Now, you might have “calf’s foot” on your regular weekly shop if you live in the mountains, but it’s not terribly common at my local supermarket. So I just skip that step. But if you wanted a deeper broth you could make your own from soup bones (these you can buy in the supermarket!) or put a couple of small soup bones (Suppenknochen) in to simmer.
BÜNDNER GERSTENSUPPE /GRAUBÜNDEN BARLEY SOUP
1 TB Butter
1/2 of a Leek (Lauch), halved lengthwise, and chopped finely
150g Carrots, chopped finely
150g Celery Root, (Sellerie) peeled and chopped in small cubes
<or use a frozen packet of “Brunoise Classic” vegetable mixture available at both Migros and Coop, apprx. 70g.>
50g Bündnerfleisch, cubed finely
100g Pearl barley (Rollgerste)
1 Onion, halved
1 Bay Leaf (Lorbeerblatt)
1 Clove (Nelke)
1 Calves’ foot – if desired (Kalbsfüsschen), rinsed in cold water first
1.5 liters water
2 cubes Beef bouillon (Fleischbouillon) or Vegetable bouillon (Gemüsebouillon)
(or homemade beef or vegetable stock to equal 1.5 liters)
Salt and pepper to taste (add only at the end – Bündnerfleisch is salty, so there may not be need to add extra salt)
3 TB Heavy cream (Rahm) added at the end of cooking
1 packet/bunch of Chives (Schnittlauch), chopped finely, to add as garnish
Place your butter in a large soup pot and melt over medium-high heat. When it is foamy, add your vegetables (either chopped or the frozen packet ones) and cook until soft. Add the barley and cook for 1 minute. Then add the rest of the ingredients up to the bouillon. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 2 hours. After the soup is finished cooking, remove the onion, bay leaf, clove, and if used – the calves’ foot.
Soup can be made ahead and re-warmed, or made in a slow cooker if desired.
Just before serving, add the cream to the soup and mix. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. When serving, add the chives to the top of each bowl of soup.
• For a vegetarian soup, use vegetable bouillon and do not add meat • Gerstensuppe with Sausages (Würstli): prepare the Gerstensuppe, but leave out the Bündnerfleisch and cream. 20 Min. before the end of the cooking time, add 2 Rauchwürste (250 g) or 4 Wienerli and simmer on low. Place the soup in bowls with chopped sausages on top. •
For a lovely presentation: Instead of adding the cream to the soup, you can beat the cream until stiff and add a dollop on each bowl, with the chives scattered on top.