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Winter Vegetable Soup with Dumplings

1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
600g root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, swede, turnips, celeriac and potatoes, sliced or diced
150g beetroot (100g peeled and diced, 50g grated)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp dried thyme or 2 sprigs of fresh
50g barley
up to 1.5 litres vegetable stock
1 tsp Vegmite
2 leeks, finely sliced
100g kale, shredded
sea salt and black pepper

Dumplings
150g self-raising flour
75g butter or vegetarian suet
1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
1 tsp dried thyme

To serve
finely chopped dill or parsley
dollops of mustard or horseradish

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.

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