Soup-e-Jo – Persian Barley Soup

An Autumn supper for 4. Or a starter for 6.
There cannot be a more recession-friendly soup than this. But it is so creamy and comforting it tastes more like the fare of shahs than paupers. It is a very popular dish in Iran – I have often noticed it served as a starter amongst the ex-pat Persians living over here, although in my opinion it is so filling that it is more the stuff of winter suppers.

This recipe was actually featured in Persia in Peckham, and for that reason it ended up on the cutting floor of Veggiestan: not good to duplicate stff. But it is a cracking vegan recipe and totally belongs here on the website.

This is mostly my aunt-in-law, Tatty-jun’s (‘jun’ after any name in Iran translates as ‘dear’ so-and-so) recipe: Jamshid has an impressive range of aunts, all of whom are impressive cooks.


  • 300g pearl barley, rinsed and soaked (half an hour will do)
  • 3 leeks, washed and chopped
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • butter for frying
  • 3 large carrots, scrubbed and grated
  • 2½ litres (preferably home made) vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • juice of 3 fresh lemons
  • 150ml (or so) of soured cream, or single cream at a pinch (but you will need a little more lemon juice if you use this)
  • salt and pepper

Drain the barley well. Fry 2 of the onions and all of the leeks in a drop of butter in a big, heavy pan. Once they are cooked and just turning colour, add one of the three grated carrots and the barley. Cook for a couple of minutes more, stirring constantly, and then pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, cover and then set to simmer for a couple of hours. Check the liquid content from time to time – if it looks too gloopy, add a little boiling water.

In the meantime prepare the garnish: melt the butter in a pan, and fry the remaining onion and carrot until it soft and starting to brown. Add the sugar and the vinegar, and continue to cook until quite caramelised.
Just before you want to serve the soup, check the seasoning, and stir in the lemon juice and the cream. Serve with the caramelised carrot ranged in pretty patterns on top.

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