600 grams boneless pork shoulder (we used free-range)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 bay leaf
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed and drained
6 cups chicken stock
6 leaves of silver beet, well washed
Trim any excess fat from the pork and cut the meat into 2 cm pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan. Add half the pork, season and brown on all sides, keeping the heat high to prevent the pork stewing in its own juices. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat with the remaining pork.
Add the onions, carrots, garlic, rosemary, caraway seeds and the bay leaf to the saucepan. Season and cook until the vegetables are lightly golden. Add the pork and any juices back to the pan. Stir in the pearl barley and the chicken stock. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer gently until the pork is tender, about 1 hour. Cut the tough stalk from the silver beet and shred the leaves. Stir into the soup and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and season if needed.
Soups that contain grains or rice will absorb a lot of liquid and thicken considerably if made ahead. Add 1-2 cups of extra stock or water when reheating.
Chicken stock: it is easy and inexpensive to make your own chicken stock. Chicken bones are readily available from the supermarket or poultry stores. Put them in a large pot with a carrot, a stick of celery, an onion and a leek, all roughly chopped. Add a bay leaf, a few parsley stalks and peppercorns and cover with fresh, cold water. Bring slowly to the boil, skimming the surface frequently. Simmer gently for an hour or two, before straining. Refrigerate overnight, remove the solidified layer of fat from the top and store in the freezer in small containers, ready for use in soups, casseroles or risotto.