Hot Yogurt and Barley Soup

October 24, 2012
4 Ratings
Photo by Linda Xiao
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This recipe is adapted from "Jerusalem: A Cookbook" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.
In "Jerusalem," Yotam Ottolenghi and Sam Tamimi write: "Consider this: there are Greek Orthodox monks in this city; Russian Orthodox priests; Hasidic Jews originating from Poland; non-Orthodox Jews from Tunisia, from Libya, from France, or from Britain; there are Sephardic Jews that have been here for generations; there are Palestinian Muslims from the West Bank..." and so on. And yet, for a city of such complex culture, the cooking is remarkably uncomplicated and unassuming.

For Ottolenghi, who grew up in the Jewish west side of the city, and Tamimi, who was raised in the Muslim east side, and who now have restaurants around London, "Jerusalem" follows their bestselling first book, "Ottolenghi." This is their food of Jerusalem, what they like to cook, the dishes that remained with them after moving away -- coarse chopped salads, stuffed peppers, meatballs with favas, and fenugreek cake. You don't know if you're cooking from the east or west, Muslim or Jewish -- rather, it's the food of the city, and you can love all of Jerusalem.

Don't bother dog-earring pages, or you'll destroy the book. Better to just slowly work your way through it. I began with this warm and mellow yogurt soup. Scallions and herbs are tempered by the yogurt, the ingredient that moderates and unites so much of the cooking of this city.

First you cook the barley and onions and then use its cooking broth to heat and thicken a base of yogurt and eggs. It's a bit unnerving, like cooking custard is, as you daringly cook the mixture and will it not to curdle. But then it all comes together, somewhere between porridge and soup, each spoonful threaded with herbs. —Amanda Hesser

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • Salt
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried mint
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • Scant 2 cups whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 2/3 ounce fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/3 ounce flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Bring 6 3/4 cups water to a boil with the barley in a large saucepan, adding 1 teaspoon salt, and simmer until the barley is cooked but still al dente, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Once cooked, you will need 4 3/4 cups of the cooking liquid for the soup; top up with water if you are left with less due to evaporation.
  2. While the barley is cooking, saute the onion and dried mint over medium heat in the butter until soft, seasoning with salt, about 15 minutes. Add this to the cooked barley and adjust seasoning.
  3. Whisk together the eggs and yogurt in a large heatproof mixing bowl. Slowly mix in some of the barley and water, one ladle at a time, until the yogurt has warmed. This will temper the yogurt and eggs and stop them from splitting when added to the hot liquid. Add the yogurt to the soup pot and return to medium heat, stirring continuously, until the soup comes to a very light simmer. Remove from the heat, add the chopped herbs and scallions and check the seasoning. Serve hot.

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Amanda Hesser

Recipe by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.

2 Reviews

nina March 4, 2021
I just made this and it was lovely. Things I changed: took out half the barley after it was cooked, because it seemed like way too much. It still made 4 rib-sticking servings (about two quarts of soup). Used leeks instead of onions, just sauteed briefly and added near the finish. Omitted dried mint. Added saffron to the yogurt. Added a spoonful of preserved lemon paste (just preserved lemons, blended) at the end, in place of some salt. Used regular whole-milk yogurt instead of Greek. Used 1 T butter instead of 4. But still ... basically the same recipe, and a nice change from my usuals.
Kate December 26, 2013
I just made this as a post-Christmas detox, and it really hit the spot. I only had 2% yogurt, so I ended up adding about a cup less of the cooking liquid. I also used arborio rice instead of barley (didn't have any of that either) and cooked it in homemade stock instead of water.