The nutty-flavoured pearl barley will help bulk up any dish as well as making it creamy without the cream. Barley also acts as a flavour sponge for more dramatic flavours.
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over a low to medium heat. Add the onion and fry for 4 to 5 minutes, until softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the carrots, celery and thyme leaves and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until slightly softened, followed by the pearl barley. Pour the stock into the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pearl barley is tender.
3. Stir in the ham and peas and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Season to taste and serve the soup in warm bowls with crusty bread on the side.