Cod fish soup with pearl barley

Some soups are served with large chunks of meat or vegetables left in the liquid, while a broth is a flavored liquid usually derived from boiling a type of meat with bone, a spice mix, or a vegetable mix for a period of time in a stock. A common type of broth is consommé, which are crystal clear broths or stock that have a full flavor, aroma, and body.

A potage is a category of thick soups, stews, or porridges, in some of which meat and vegetables are boiled together with water until they form into a thick mush.

Bisques are heavy cream soups traditionally prepared with shellfish, but can be made with any type of seafood or other base ingredients. Cream soups are a dairy based soup. Although they may be consumed on their own, or with a meal, the canned, condensed form of cream soup is sometimes used as a quick sauce in a variety of meat and pasta convenience food dishes, such as casseroles. Similar to a bisque, chowders are thick soups usually containing some type of starch.

Some soups are served only cold, and other soups can optionally be served cold.

Name Image Origin Type Distinctive ingredients and description Ajiaco Colombia Chunky In the Colombian capital of Bogotá, ajiaco is typically made with chicken, three varieties of potatoes, and the Galinsoga parviflora herb commonly referred to in Colombia as guascas. In Cuba, it is a hearty stew made from beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, and a variety of starchy roots and tubers classified as viandas. Acquacotta Italy (Tuscany) Chunky Originally a peasant food, historically, its primary ingredients were water, stale bread, onion, tomato, olive oil and any spare vegetables or leftovers. It has been described as an ancient dish. Analı kızlı soup Turkey Chunky (Photo: Dehydrated ready-made version) Bulgur meatballs and chickpeas in gravy with yogurt Avgolemono Greece Potage Chicken broth, rice or orzo, and lemon, thickened with tempered eggs Avocado soup Can be prepared and served as a cold or hot soup Bacon soup Europe Chunky Bacon, vegetables, and a thickening agent. Pictured is celery and bacon soup. Bak kut teh Malaysia and Singapore Herbal Consists of meaty pork ribs simmered in a complex broth of herbs and spices (including star anise, cinnamon, cloves, dang gui, fennel seeds and garlic) for hours. Bakso Indonesia Meatballs soup Meatball noodle soup in rich beef broth, sometimes include bok choy, noodles, tofu, hard-boiled egg, fried shallots and wontons. Barley Ancient Chunky Barley, vegetables, and broth Beef noodle soup East Asia Noodle Stewed or red braised beef, beef broth, vegetables and Chinese noodles. It exists in various forms throughout East Asia and Southeast Asia, and is popular as a Chinese and Taiwanese noodle soup. Beer soup Europe Beverage soup Recipe from the middle ages using heated beer and pieces of bread; though other ingredients were also used. Bergen fish soup Norway Fish White fish (haddock, halibut, cod) and various vegetables in a heavy cream Binignit Philippines Dessert Coconut milk, fruits and tapioca pearls, served hot but sometimes chilled Bird’s nest soup China Gelatinous Edible bird’s nest, an expensive delicacy valued for its unusual texture Borscht Eastern Europe Chunky Cabbage and beet-based soup with meat. One of very few soups that can be enjoyed hot or cold. A national Ukrainian dish Bouillabaisse France Fish Fish soup Bouillon (soup) Haiti Sliced meat, potatoes, sliced plantains, yam, kelp, cabbage, and celery. Traditionally prepared on Saturdays Bourou-Bourou Greece (Corfu) Potage Vegetable and pasta Brenebon The Netherlands and Indonesia Beans Kidney bean soup served in pig’s trotters broth, spiced with shallot, garlic, salt, sugar, pepper, nutmeg and clove. Mixed with chopped green beans, celery and scallion. Brown veal Clear or Stock Veal Brown Windsor soup England Chunky Lamb or beef steak, parsnips, carrots, leeks, bouquet garni, Madeira wine; popular in England during the Victorian and Edwardian eras Bun bo Hue Vietnam Noodle A noodle soup from central Vietnam, with beef. Buridda Italy (Liguria) Chunky seafood soup or stew Butajiru Japan Chunky Pork soup Cabbage soup, kapusniak, kapustnica, zelnacka Poland

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Updated on January 3, 2018

Science graduate and business advisor, health educator and author, Beth writes articles on a wide variety of subjects.

A proud angler holds his newly caught cod fish. | Source How Much of the Whole Fish Can You Eat?

If you’ve ever bought a whole fish from the slab at a fishmonger or even caught and gutted your own, you’ll be amazed by how little flesh there is at the end of the filleting and gutting process.

You may have noticed that the price per pound of a whole fish is much cheaper than buying a fish that’s already filleted. The reason for this is that a considerable proportion of the fish is discarded. The discarded parts consist of the bones, head, tail, intestines, scales, and gills. These can be used to make fish soup, although many people do not take the time and trouble to do this.

Painting by Joachim Beuckelaer. Cleaning and filleting the day’s catch at the fish-market. | Source Percentage Weight Discarded on Atlantic Cod Fish

The Atlantic Cod fish is prized because its firm flesh has a meaty texture and mild taste. The flakes of its flesh remain intact and do not disintegrate when cooked.

My local fishmonger estimates that the amount of edible flesh on an average sized Atlantic Cod is around 50% of its original weight. This tallies with the view of Aliza Green, American chef and author, who writes in her book “The Fishmonger’s Apprentice” that between 45% and 50% of the caught weight of fish is edible flesh.

This percentage varies with the species of fish and the size and age of the fish when it was caught. The remaining 50% to 55% is made up of the intestines and scales (which are normally discarded) and the head, tail, bones and gills which can be boiled to make fish broth.

Sonny Elliott of Rockanore Fisheries, UK was quoted in The Guardian newspaper as saying that half the weight of each landed catch is thrown away. “If we’re filleting 100kg of cod, nearly 50kg of heads, guts and bones ends up going to landfill,” he said. “Occasionally people ask for bones to make stock, but mostly they just want flesh.”

The video below shows a whole cod being eviscerated and filleted on a commercial fishing boat.

Filleting Cod Fish at Sea Commercial Fishing and Atlantic Cod (Gadus Morhua)

The Atlantic Cod (Gadus Morhua) is a favorite with cooks across Europe and America. The species used to be plentiful in the 1970s and 1980s. It was found in large numbers off the coasts of northern USA, Greenland, the North and Baltic Seas and around Iceland.

Unfortunately its popularity resulted in overfishing and during the 1990s there was a dramatic drop in the size of commercial catches. A temporary moratorium was introduced on fishing in some sea areas in an attempt to allow Atlantic Cod numbers to return to their former levels. Shoal numbers have improved, but the species is still not as abundant as it was before. There is pressure on fishing fleets to use more sustainable fishing techniques to maintain future supplies. There have also been advertising campaigns aimed at consumers to try to get them to eat other, more plentiful species of fish.

Graph showing collapse in Atlantic Cod stocks in 1992. | Source Size and Weight of an Individual Atlantic Cod Fish

Atlantic Cod is a long living species. Some individual fish are known to have lived for twenty-five years although 12 to 13 years is more usual. Cod can grow to around 100 kilograms (220 pounds) in weight but the average weight of individual Atlantic Cod caught by commercial fishermen is between 5 to12 kilograms (11 to 26 pounds).

If you had an Atlantic Cod weighing, say, ten kilograms and removed 50% of it (bones, guts etc.), there will be five kilograms (eleven pounds) of edible flesh on the average sized Atlantic (Gadus morhua) Cod.

Atlantic Cod with distinctive barbel tag under its chin. | Source Making Use of the Discards – Fish Soup or Broth

Rather than throw away 50% of a whole fish, the discards can be used to make a tasty fish soup or broth. There are many recipes for this. They involve boiling the bones, head, tail and gills together with onions, and root vegetables to make a fish stock. Once the bones and other fish remains have been strained out, you will be left with fish liquor. This can be seasoned to taste. The addition of further vegetables, pearl barley or fish flesh to the liquor will make a tasty and wholesome stew. The video below shows how simple it is to make a fish stock that can be used in fish stews and sauces.

Fish Bones, Head and TailDo you make fish soup (or broth) from fish bones, head, tail etc.? Bouillabaisse (French Fish Broth)

There is a tasty fish stew from France called bouillabaisse that uses the leftovers from filleting fish. These are cooked up with herbs and spices to make a tasty broth. It is more substantial than a soup and is very filling. Bouillabaisse is thought to have its origins in the Marseille region of France. Traditionally, you should include at least five different types of fish and throw in some shellfish for good measure.

Bouillabaisse fish soup with crusty bread. | Source What to Look For When Buying Fresh Fish

Fish’s Eyes




Firm and springy

Indents easily


Fresh like melon or cucumber

Strong and offensive

Fish’s Gills

Bright red or bright pink

Gray or pale color




Touch/ Feel



Should You Buy Whole Fish or Ready Filleted?

Whenever possible, it is always better to buy a whole fish; that way you are able to see, smell and touch the whole fish before you commit to purchase. You will be able to assess the signs of freshness as described in the table and video above.

Once the fishmonger has weighed and priced the whole fish, he can fillet it for you. This is usually quicker and more convenient than doing it yourself as his knives will be really sharp. However, make sure that you ask him for all the discarded parts; i.e. skin, bones, entrails etc. as these can be used to make fish stock for bouillabaisse or some other delicious fish dish. Now you know that only half a cod fish is edible flesh, don’t waste 50% of your purchase!

A whole Atlantic Cod fish. | Source

Barley is one of those wonderful grains that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. With a chewy texture and nutty flavor, barley is a delicious whole grain that can be used in a number of ways, way beyond the classic Beef and Barley Soup. It is also a very nutritious and healthy food, with lots of fiber and a number of trace minerals like selenium, manganese and phosphorus.

Hulled barley (left) and pearl barley (right)

(Image credit: Dana Velden)

The most important thing to know about barley is that it comes in two basic forms: hulled and pearl. Hulled barley has had the tough, inedible outermost hull removed but still retains its bran and endosperm layer. It is the most nutritious of the two and can be considered a whole grain. A light golden brown in color, it’s the nuttier and chewier version as well.

Pearl barley has been polished to remove the bran and possibly even the endosperm layers, resulting in a pale, creamy-colored grain. It is less chewy and cooks faster than the hulled variety, but has less fiber, is less nutritious, and is not considered a whole grain. Most people are familiar with pearl barley, especially as an ingredient in beef-barley soup.

Both kinds of barley are traditionally simmered in water, or for more flavor, stock. One cup of hulled barley will yield three cups cooked. Hulled barley can take 20 to 25 minutes longer to cook than pearl and will absorb less liquid. It will retain its shape and swell with cooking, resulting in individual, separate grains. It is delicious as a pilaf or as an alternative to wheat berries in whole grain salads.

Pearl barley is softer and releases starch into its cooking liquid, making it a good thickener for soups. (If you don’t want pearl barley to thicken your dish, cook it separately and rinse it before adding.) For this same reason, it can also be made risotto-style, resulting in a creamy, chewy dish.

The best way to purchase barley is from bulk bins at stores like Whole Foods so you can be assured that the supply is fresh. As with all bulk grains, it’s best to give the barley a quick rinse under running water before cooking to wash away any dust or debris. Barley can also be purchased prepackaged in boxes or plastic bags at any decently stocked grocery store.

Pearl barley, measured out and ready to be cooked.

How To Cook Barley What You Need Ingredients

  • 1 cup

    pearl or hulled barley

  • 3 cups

    water or stock

  • Salt (optional)

  • Equipment
  • Measuring cup

  • 2-quart sauce pan with lid

  • Strainer


  1. Combine the barley and water: Combine the barley and water in the saucepan. Add a generous pinch of salt if desired.

  2. Bring to a boil: Bring the water and barley to a boil over high heat. Keep an eye on the pot as barley will give off a lot of foam at first and can cause the pot to boil over.

  3. Simmer the barley: When the barley has reached a boil, lower the heat to a low simmer, cover, and continue to cook until the barley is done. For pearl barley, start checking at 25 minutes. For hulled barley, start checking at 40 minutes. The barley is done when it has tripled in volume and is soft yet chewy. Add more water if the pan becomes dry before the barley has finished cooking; check every 5 minutes until desired chewiness is reached.

  4. Drain the barley (if necessary): When the barley is done, it will have absorbed most of the water. If there is a little water still left in the pot, just leave the barley to sit for 10 minutes, covered, until it has all been absorbed. If there is a lot of water left, drain the barley in a strainer over the sink.

  5. Fluff the barley: With a fork, fluff the barley to separate the grains. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

To cook more or less barley, use this ratio of 1 cup barley to 3 cups water.

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A delicious recipe for Pearl Barley Soup, or Gerstensuppe.

A trip to the Swiss mountains usually guarantees good, hearty, winter fare. After a day of heavy duty winter sports, the body is likely to crave something substantial, something loaded with calories. On a recent weekend away in the picturesque Swiss village of Kandersteg, my husband and I found it difficult to hold back when it came to mealtimes, despite the fact that neither of us had engaged in any strenuous outdoor activity which would have explained our hearty appetites. But as my husband likes to put it, some dishes taste best when served in the appropriate surrounding environment; a fondue somehow tastes better when served in the mountains in an old wooden hut where everyone is rugged up in their winter woollies.

{Cheese fondue at the Landgasthof Ruedihus}

Other typical alpine dishes include the skiing classic of macaroni and cheese with an accompanying serve of apple compote.

{Macaroni & Cheese at Hotel Victoria Ritter}

Also popular is the Käseschnitte, the heart-stopping Swiss version of a Croque Monsieur sandwich.

{A Käseschnitte (toasted cheese and ham sandwich) at Hotel Victoria Ritter}

And once you are done tucking into one of these delicious cheese dishes, you must absolutely make room for some apple fritters for dessert. These fritters have all the reminders of a hot cinnamon donut, but with a sweet apple interior.

{Apple Fritters with a Crème Anglaise at Landgasthof Ruedihus}

We found the variety of restaurants in Kandersteg to be somewhat sparse. In fact, compared to the more touristy Grindelwald, the village of Kandersteg was eerily quiet during our stay. It was only when we ventured into the forests for a hike that we were quiety relieved to find other signs of life, namely people doing cross-country skiing or tobogganing. Perhaps it is a popular destination for snow sports but not necessarily a popular place to stay?

Nevertheless, our favourite pick of restaurants in Kandersteg include:

Landgasthof Ruedihus The streets in Kandersteg might seem awfully quiet at night but this hotel restaurant is always bustling with activity inside. The downstairs area has an informal menu of classics such as fondue and raclette, whilst the section upstairs houses a fine-dining restaurant, both serving amazingly, delicious food.

Hotel Victoria Ritter We were lured to this restaurant by the “Tea Room” sign outside, indicating a warm and cosy place to escape the blistering cold outside. Sadly, there was no such tea room inside but the restaurant nevertheless had a very nice menu and the food did not disappoint.

Hotel Restaurant Oeschinensee A visit to the Oeschinen Lake is a must if you are in Kandersteg. It is an incredibly picturesque lake in the summer, nestled between the huge walls of the surrounding snow-capped mountains. In winter, the entire lake is frozen over, making for an impressive scene in itself but you can also try ice fishing if you are keen. You can reach the Oeschinen Lake by foot from Kandersteg, or by taking the cable car part of the way up and walking the remaining 30 mins or so. It is a fairly easy walk (I managed with a baby in a carrier!), although you will be walking across ski slopes and sledding runs, so it is best to have your ski or winter hiking gear on during the winter. The restaurant overlooks the Oeschinen Lake and is a welcome sight if you are tired and hungry after your walk.

One particular dish from the mountains which is neither rich nor fattening, yet very restorative, is the Gerstensuppe, or pearl barley soup. After hiking through the pictureque forest to the Oeschinen Lake, we arrived at the Hotel Restaurant Oeschinensee for some much-needed sustenance, and their simple pearl barley soup served with a smoked sausage was enough to revive the body and prepare it for the trek back down (after a generous serving of dessert and some Glühwein!).

{Pearl Barley Soup with a Smoked Sausage at Hotel Restaurant Oeschinensee}

Pearl barley soup is not particular to Switzerland, although it is a popular dish in the mountains. The pearl barley takes a good 30 minutes or so to cook and soften, but it has a wonderful way of thickening the soup as it cooks, adding some body and texture and consequently making the soup more substantial. In fact, it’s a good way to bulk up any plain vegetable soup. If you’re in a hurry to get dinner on the table, you could even speed up the cooking process by using a pressure cooker.

The recipe below comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Everyday, a lovely book of robust, vegetarian meals. Similar to most recipes which I lean towards, this one is easy to prepare and is full of flavour. The cayenne pepper provides a nice kick to this vegetable soup, but feel free to leave it out if you are serving young children.

If you’ve been out show-shoeing or hiking in the mountains in sub-zero temperatures, this is the soup you want to come home to. Instant comfort in a bowl.

For a printable version of the recipe, please scroll down.

Pearl Barley Soup

  • Author:
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 40 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 3-4


  • 2 carrots
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 small brown onion
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • few sprigs of thyme
  • 3.5 oz (100g) pearl barley
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • pinch of ground mace
  • 6 cups (1.5 litres) chicken or vegetable stock
  • finely chopped flat-leaf parsly
  • croûtons for serving


  1. Finely dice the carrots, celery, and onion.
  2. Peel and chop the potatoes into large chunks.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat.
  4. Gently sauté the carrots, celer, and onions, together with the bay leaf and thyme. Cook until the vegetables have softened slightly.
  5. Stir through the potatoes and pearl barley, and then add the ground coriander, cayenne pepper, and ground mace.
  6. Add the stock and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, or until the pearl barley is  very soft and the potatoes are cooked.
  7. Taste for seasoning, and add some sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.
  8. Serve with chopped parsely and croûtons.

Kitchen Notes

The original recipe calls for parsnip instead of potatoes. Use whichever is available to you, but potatoes will make this soup a little bit more filling.

To make the croûtons, simply slice some stale bread into 2cm (1 inch) cubes. Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and fry the bread, turning them frequently so that all sides become golden and crisp. The croûtons hardly take any time to cook so don’t leave the pan unattended as they can burn very quickly.

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If you have used this recipe, I would love to hear how it turned out! Please leave a comment below and share your photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using #eatlittlebird

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