In the spirit of Meat-Free Mondays (do the universe a favour and read more here), and the no-mess-no-fuss food that I firmly believe should always go with the first day of the week, I give you a new twist on my old favourite Gem Squash & Leek Soup. I’ve been cooking this for years, a recipe from Mom when I was at university, and only the other day did I add barley for the first time. And while this all sounds rather elementary I’m sure, somehow it adds just a little more punch and leaves us with a simple soup that is both honest and charming.

Gem Squash, Leek and Barley Soup
Preparation time 5-10 minutes | Cooking time 20 minutes
Rob’s Rating 8/10

WHAT YOU’LL NEED
4 gem squash, halved
1 medium-large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp olive oil
About 250g leeks, trimmed and roughly chopped
1L chicken or vegetable stock
1/3 cup pearled barley, rinsed briefly under running water
Fresh parsley, roughly chopped, to serve
S + P to taste

WHAT TO DO
1. Fill a large pot with hot water, bring to the boil and add the 8 gem squash halves. Leave to simmer gently for about 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a large heavy-based pot, heat the butter and olive oil and brown the onion for 2-3 minutes. Add the leeks and garlic and fry for a further 3 minutes.

3. Add the stock and barley, season with salt and pepper, stir and leave to simmer. Drain the gem squash, de-seed and then scoop out the pulp with a spoon, adding it to the onion and leek soup stock.

4. After a further 5 minutes, stir and check the barley is cooked (should be al dente or just past that), season and serve with fresh parsley.

*You could also blend the soup so that it’s smoother, and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or natural yoghurt.
* For my Aussie friends and family, I know that you can’t get Gem Squash in Australia, but you could use Zucchini/Courgette instead if you like.

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