Seven-Starch Soup

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Seven-Starch Soup

Though the original soup contains seven starches, we often cut it down to four or five. Beans, barley, and dumplings are essential; the rest is up to you. Just don’t get too carried away with the vegetables – this is a starch soup.

Yield: 6 servings


  • Soup:
  • 3/4 cup Vermont Cranberry beans
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped, about 3/4 cup
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large pinch dried thyme
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch dice, about 1 cup
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch dice, about 1-1/2 cups
  • 1/4 cup white rice
  • 1/4 cup short tubular pasta
  • 1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn
  • 1 small bunch kale (or collard greens or Swiss chard) washed, tough stems removed, cut in 3/4-inch ribbons, about 3 cups packed
  • salt and black pepper in a grinder
  • Dumplings:
  • 1 cup unsifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk (place 1-1/2 teaspoons vinegar in a measuring cup, add milk to measure 1/2 cup, let stand 5 minutes)


Start the soup:
Keeping them separate, pick over and rinse the beans and the barley. Put each in a medium saucepan. Add cold water to cover by 2 inches, bring to a boil, turn off the heat, and let soak 1 hour.

Put the fat or oil in a large, wide soup kettle that has a tight lid, add the onion, and cook over low heat until limp and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add the stock, bay leaf, thyme, the drained, soaked beans, and drained, soaked barley. Bring to a boil and simmer gently until both beans and barley are tender, about 50 minutes. Soup can be prepared ahead to this point. Bring it back to a simmer before proceeding.

Make the dumplings:
In a small mixing bowl combine all the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Using a fork, add the buttermilk and mix quickly to dampen dry ingredients. Do not overmix.

Finish the soup:
Bring the soup to a boil over high heat. Add all remaining grains and vegetables and return to a boil. Spacing them evenly in the kettle, place tablespoons of the dumpling batter on top of the soup, pushing it off the spoon with your finger. As soon as all the dumplings are in, put on the lid and reduce the heat to medium-low. Set a timer for 20 minutes. Listen for a gentle bubbling in the kettle, but don't lift the lid to peek. Turn off the heat when the time is up, uncover, and let settle for about 5 minutes. Taste for salt. Spoon one or two dumplings into each soup plate and ladle the soup on the side. Pass the pepper grinder at the table.

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