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Leek and barley soup

ingredients

serves 4
4 leeks, sliced
50 g (2 oz) pearl barley
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
400 g (14 oz) can tomatoes
600 ml (1 pint) vegetable stock or water
1/2 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground black pepper
215 g (7 1/2 oz) can butter beans, drained

cheesy bread

4 round slices French bread,
2 cm (3/4 inch) thick
40 g (1 1/2 oz) butter, for frying
1 clove garlic, cut in half (optional)
100 g (4 oz) Cheddar cheese, grated

method

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, leeks and carrots and fry gently for 3-4 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the stock and the barley, herbs and bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, stirring, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 50 minutes. Stir occasionally during this time,

3.. Meanwhile, make the cheesy bread: melt the butter in a frying-pan and when it sizzles add the slices of French bread. Fry over fairly high heat, turning once, until the bread is crisp and golden brown on both sides. Remove from the pan, drain on absorbent paper and leave to cool.

4. Rub each side of fried bread with the cut sides of the garlic, if using. Press the grated cheese evenly on to the slices of bread, dividing it equally between them. Heat the grill to high.

5. Remove the bay leaf from the soup, stir in the drained beans and heat through. Adjust seasoning.

6. Toast the cheese-topped slices of bread until the cheese starts to bubble.

7. Ladle the soup into 4 warmed individual soup bowls and top each one with a slice of cheesy bread. Serve at once.

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