Lately I have increased the amount of juicing I have been doing and have been enjoying their fresh zing in the mornings. Lunches, possible due to the awful relentless rain and wind, have been largely soups. Warming, soothing and a wonderful way to use up odds and ends in the fridge.

This soup is exactly that. Many odd pieces of veggies rescued from the vegetable drawer cooked in flavoursome broth with the addition of barley to give the soup more body and sustenance. You could of course any veggies you find lurking around, swede, turnip, courgette, celeriac, peppers, peas, sweetcorn....anything goes.

Add some herbs or different grain, quinoa or brown rice would be lovely. I wold cook these separately and add to warm up just before serving. Which ever way you go this will warm you up in this wet wintery weather.



serves 3-4

1 onion
1 celery rib
1 carrot
1 parsnip
1 large potato
1/4 cauliflower
half broccoli
1/2 cup barley
veg stock

  1. Peel the onion, peel the potato and parsnip. Cut all the vegetables into fine dice (about 1 cm/1/3inch).
  2. In a large sauce pan or stock pot add all the vegetables and barley.
  3. Add enough vegetable stock to cover the vegetables by about 5cm (2 inches).
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for about 20min or until the barley is cooked. Taste for seasoning.
  5. Enjoy.


Part 4: Mains

Main meal of the day, whether you have it at midday or evening, is a great opportunity to load up on some veggies and fruit too. I aim is to get around 10 (preferably more) portions every day. My evening meal is the last opportunity to meat my quota. There are so many ways to get plenty of veg into your meals. Soups and stews can easily add up to several portions without even trying. Experiment with curries, veggie burgers or loafs, roasted veggies mixed with grains and pastas, chips (fries) made out of roots, and of coarse don’t forget the greens they are great in just about any dish. A big salad on the side and something fruity for dessert; it is hard not to get all the fruit and veg you need on a plant based diet.

It wasn’t always this plant strong. I grew up eating the normal Czech diet, which is rich in meat and potatoes with veggies taking on a rather insignificant role. However we had quite a few vegetable based dishes too. There is a great array of vegetable dishes in the Czech culinary tradition. Unfortunately these are usually considered too simple to be served to guests. Simple very often means very delicious.

There was a time when I wanted to get away from the usual and explore the food my grandmother grew up with. I loved the discovery and she loved the memories these dishes brought to her. She grew up on largely meatless diet, her family could only afford to have meat once a week. She gave me a superb grounding in vegetarian cooking without even realising it. She showed me how easy it is to use veggies or grains as a base of a dish. She always made a simple salad, or just cut up raw veggies on the side. Her food was fantastic every time even if it consisted of only few ingredients that many would find uninspiring. I am sure she would enjoy my butternut squash barlotto.


This is creamy like an Italian risotto without the cheese and butter. You can just serve a whole bowl of it or as I did top some large roasted portobello mushrooms with it. Looks impressive enough to serve at a dinner party.

I considered adding some nutritional yeast flakes to the cashew sauce but decided against it because I didn’t want anything to overpower the gorgeous butternut squash flavour. You can add 2 Tbs if you wish.

Green salad on the side is a must, rocket works great with the sweet squash.

Serves 4-6 (or 8 if used as a stuffed mushroom starter )


200g (1 cup) barley
1 medium butternut squash
1 Tbs olive oil separated (2 x 1/2 Tbs)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
8 sage leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 (70g) cup cashews
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup roasted butternut squash
salt + pepper

  1. If you can soak the barley overnight or at least for several hours. Drain.
  2. Cook the barley in plenty of vegetable stock or seasoned water for 15-20 min. If not soaked the barley will take roughly twice as long. Test it, it should be swell up, be soft with bit of a resistance. It kind of pops between your teeth, but shouldn’t be hard. Drain and set aside. This can be done while ahead.
  3. Peel your butternut squash, cut into bite size pieces. Place onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper and coat with 1/2 tbs of olive oil. Roast till cooked through and starting to caramelise around the edges. Set aside.
  4. In a large saute pan with high edges heat the other 1/2 of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and gently saute till soft. Add the sage and cook for about 1 minute.
  5. While your onions are sauteing, place 1 cup (250ml) of the butternut squash, 1/2 cup of cashews and 1 and 1/2 cup of water in a blender. Process till smooth.
  6. When onions are soft, add the barley and rest of the butternut squash to the saute pan. Stir together and heat through, you can add some water if the barley starts sticking.
  7. Add the cashew nut sauce to the barley mixture, stir through and heat up together. You are aiming for creamy but not too soupy texture. Season and serve.



Foraging for mushrooms is bit of a national pastime in the Czech Republic. During mushroom season people get up as early as 5am to get to the woods before anybody else, they guard their mushroom rich spots with their life. Even relatives will not disclose where they found their precious funghi.

There is a hierarchy among the mushrooms. The most desirable are girolles and porcinis, and some types of porcini are more sought after than others. It can sound a bit complicated to a novice, but every Czech child seems to know which are the basic edible mushrooms. I always loved searching the woods for chanterelles, they hide in banks of woodlands tucked away under tufts of grass. You can smell mushrooms in the woods as soon as you enter, their heady scent can be rather intoxicating.

we Czechs love to dry our mushrooms in the summer sunshine, keep them for the winter months. In the Czech cuisine there are many recipes using the edible fungi and quite a few of them are vegetarian. Mushrooms are a great meat substitute, the large ones can be simply grilled and used in place of a burger, chopped small can be used instead of mince, their rich flavour makes for a great gravy. They are fabulously and good for you too.

Unfortunately I have yet to discover places where to forage for mushrooms in UK, I am sure they must be around. In the meantime shop bought dried porcinis will have to do. They retain their flavour, it actually becomes even richer, and the scent is wonderful, just pour the boiling water over them to release it.



This recipe is inspired by an old Czech recipe that is traditionally cooked at Christmas. The original tends to be made with loads of lard and baked. I made this dish much lighter and used extra herbs to enhance the flavour.

The barley in my recipe is natural whole barley as oppose to pearl barley variety which is a more refined polished grain.

Serves 4 generously


15-20g dried porcini mushrooms
300g whole barley
vegetable stock
1 medium chopped
1 Tbs rapeseed or olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200g mushrooms
1 Tbs rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp dried marjoram
2 Tbs parsley, chopped



  1. Soak the mushrooms in boiling water, use enough water to make up about 500ml (2 cups). Soak for 20min. Take the mushrooms out and reserve the liquid.
  2. Put the barley and about 750ml (3 cups) of vegetable stock in a large sauce pan. Boil for 20 min. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a wide saute pan heat the olive oil and cook the onion till soft. Add the rosemary and mushrooms. Cook for about 5 min.
  4. Add the garlic, drained porcinis and the marjoram. Cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the barley, reserved mushroom soaking liquid and half the parsley. Season.
  6. Cook gently till most of the liquid is evaporated. This will take about 10min.
  7. Serve garnished with the reserved parsley.