Barley grits (belboula in Moroccan Arabic or semoule d’orge in French) is a common grain in Morocco, where it’s used to make sweet or savory porridge like soups (hssoua), breads and even couscous. In this recipe for a savory version of Hssoua Belboula, barley grits are cooked until tender with olive oil and cumin. Milk, butter and evaporated milk are added at the end of cooking to richen the barley soup and give it a creamy quality.
I prefer medium caliber barley grits when making hssoua. Fine grits will cook more quickly and result in soup with less texture while large grits may take longer, require a little more water and will hold their shape with chewier texture.
Be careful not to confuse evaporated milk with sweetened condensed milk. In Morocco you’ll find unsweetened evaporated milk sold as Lait Concentré Non-Sucre under the brand name Purisima. A small 160 ml can is appropriate for this recipe but larger cans are available. If you don’t have any on hand or want to omit it, see the Recipe Notes to make the necessary adjustments.
Serve the soup for breakfast or as part of a light evening meal. If desired, you can garnish it with a swirl of olive oil or melted butter and a dusting of cumin.
Hssoua Belboula - Moroccan Barley Soup with Milk
- Pick through the barley to remove any debris. Wash the barley grits several times in a large bowl filled with water, draining each time through a sieve. Wash until the water is no longer cloudy.
- In a small stock pot mix the barley grits, water, olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the soup is thick like porridge and the grains are tender. Stir several times during cooking, and be careful that the heat is not too high or the soup can boil over.
- Stir in the milk and bring to a simmer again for a few minutes. Turn off the heat, and stir in the butter and evaporated milk. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. If you like, garnish each serving with with a little cumin and olive oil or a bit of butter.
- Adjust the thickness of the soup to your own preference by increasing or reducing the milk.
- The soup can also be made without evaporated milk. Substitute half of the water with milk, being extra careful not to let the soup boil over. When the barley is cooked, thin the soup by stirring in additional milk. Add the butter, and serve.
- Reheat leftover hssoua belboula gently, adding a little water if necessary to return the soup to its original consistency.