Smoked Shank and Pearl Barley Soup – a winter warmer

We’ve just experienced some wonderful wild and wet weather over the weekend which always makes me want to  cook up a large winter warming soup. Smoked shanks provide a lovely smoky richness to this dish while the pearl barley is high in fibre and protein. Their combination creates a lovely full flavoured soup perfect for lunch or dinner when served with fresh bread and butter. It’s also one of those dishes that taste even better the next day.


  • 1 smoked shank or ham hock
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 2 leeks
  • 5 or 6 small courgettes
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Splash of olive oil
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 2 litres water
  • Sprigs of thyme and 2 bay leaves (dried is perfectly ok if you don’t have the fresh stuff)
  • Pepper and salt to taste

Chop up the onion and garlic and slice the courgettes and leeks (clean the leeks thoroughly to remove all sand). In a large pot sauté or sweat the onion and garlic on low heat in a splash of olive oil. Add the rest of the vegetables and sauté until translucent.

Saute in a large pot
Saute in a large pot

Add the smoked shank and pour over the chicken stock and water. Increase the heat until boiling then reduce to simmer. Add the pearl barley when bubbling and stir through a few times, otherwise it will stick to the bottom of the pot. Add in ground pepper to taste and the thyme and bay leaves. I don’t add any salt until the very end when you’ve had a taste test as the smoked meat adds some saltiness to the dish.

Simmering away
Simmering away

Simmer for 45 to 60 minutes until the pearl barley is cooked through. Remove the smoked shank and let it cool down. Remove the skin and fat and slice off the cooked meat. Shread or dice the meat and return it to the soup. This is when I test the salt level.




Reheat and serve with crusty bread slathered with old fashioned butter and let the warming begin!

Serve with crusty bread
Serve with crusty bread

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