We both love a dumpling and this is a really hearty soup for a winter’s day – a proper Hairy Biker dinner. You can use butter for the dumplings, which makes them lovely and light, but if you want this to be a vegan dish use vegetarian suet. And if you don’t fancy caraway seeds, try adding some chopped dill to the mix. Use whatever root veg you like, but go easy on the potato.


Heat the oil in a saucepan or a flameproof casserole dish. Add the onion and cook gently over a medium-high heat until it starts to take on some colour. Add the root vegetables, including the diced beetroot, but not the grated, and continue to cook, stirring regularly, for another 10 minutes until they start to reduce in volume.

Stir in the garlic, thyme and barley and cook for another couple of minutes. Pour in 1.2 litres of the stock and season. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a fast simmer. Stir in the Marmite (the heat will melt it off the spoon) and partially cover the pan with a lid.

Simmer for about 20 minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Add the leeks and kale. Continue to cook until the barley is swollen and slightly al dente and the vegetables are tender – this should take 15–20 minutes. Add more liquid if the soup gets too thick.

Meanwhile, make the dumplings. If you want the dumplings firm and lightly browned, preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6, or you can just steam them on top of the soup.

Put the flour into a bowl and add the butter or suet. Rub in the fat, then season well. Add the caraway seeds, if using, and the thyme and just enough water to make a slightly tacky dough. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll into balls.

Stir the grated beetroot into the soup. Drop the dumplings on top of the soup and either put the pan in the oven for about 15 minutes until the dumplings are puffed up and lightly browned, or cover and leave to simmer on the hob for 15–20 minutes. Garnish with dill or parsley and serve with dollops of mustard or horseradish.

Kids in the Kitchen

Put the kids on dumpling duty. Get them measuring, mixing and separating them so they are ready for you to add to the soup. Older kids who are comfortable with the stove and pans can help you add, stir and check on the veg for the soup.