Day three, dinner three, sees me over the middle hump of this year’s Live Below The Line challenge. In previous years, I’ve found myself at the end of the week with the scraps and scrag-ends of my £5-for-5-days food shop, exhausted, cranky, and willing it to be over as I try to be inventive with whatever bits and pieces there are left. I’m trying not to let that happen too much this year; in the same way I gently encourage my 5 year old not to leave the ‘green veg’ on his plate until the end for a dragged-out, miserable dinner experience (if anyone finds the answer as to why small boys are totally happy to eat their own bright green bogies and lick their radioactive-looking snot from their noses but abhor anything green that might be good for them, please, I’m dying to know) – I decided to shoehorn some of the ‘scraps’ into the week, rather than drag my heels and pouty lower lip all the way to Friday. So here we are, Wednesday, and a broccoli stalk soup. Rather this than the mushy peas, anyhow, that are glaring at me passive-aggressively from the worktop and filling me with fear.


I decided to dice and slightly char the broccoli stalk – there’s no real knowledge or science behind this decision, I just figured it needs all the help it can get to take it from ‘thing I would usually feed the guinea pig’ to ‘thing I’m really looking forward to for my dinner’. And as ever, I’m padding it out with a little pearl barley, because a) I seem to be barely making a dent in it despite eating it with almost every meal and b) I need all the energy I can get in order to not just sit in the middle of the living room, get fired from all my jobs, and let the toddlers run riot and draw on the walls.


Served 1 at 29p


1 broccoli stalk, diced (weighed a whopping 150g), 14p
2 spring onions, 8p
1 chicken stock cube dissolved in 300ml boiling water, 2p
30g pearl barley bits, 3p
30ml natural yoghurt, 3p


First dice your broccoli stalk. Grab a non-stick pan, or a griddle if you have that sort of thing lying around the house (personally I have one favourite large shallow non-stick pan I use for everything, it doesn’t get the fancy lines on it that you would get from a cast iron griddle but having spent some of my errant youth flinging skinless-boneless-tasteless-chicken onto a griddle in a local Harvester I don’t have positive associations with identikit charcoal lines on food anyway…). Pop it on the hob and crank the heat up to shit-hot. Fling the diced broccoli in and turn the heat down to medium-low, depending on the size of your burner. Big burner low, little burner medium. You want some heat, but not so much, that pan should be hot hot already. Stir the broccoli to disturb it a bit and stop it sticking, you want a light char rather than something that tastes like you’re chewing an ashtray… Add a tiny bit of oil if your pan needs it. When it’s a bit soft around the edges, remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.


Give it a minute or two, and add your stock (adding water then crumbling the cube in is fine, it will all come together in the end) then the pearl barley. Return to the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the pearl barley is soft and swollen.
To serve, add your yoghurt – DO NOT just dollop it into the pan as it will split, which is perfectly edible in a sour kind of way but does look rather off-putting. Put your yoghurt in a separate bowl, add 2 tablespoons of the soup to it, and stir quickly to combine. Repeat this step about 6 times, gradually thinning the yoghurt and warming it without it splitting. When the yoghurt-soup mix is warm to touch, tip it into the remaining soup and stir in. And serve. Voila. Broccoli stalk and barley soup.


I’m taking the Live Below The Line challenge to raise money for Street Child United – you can sponsor me at www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack


You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MsJackMonroe